by Mary Pedersen, Community Service Chair
On July 22, 2014, twenty members and staff member Leslie Heberlie of Interfaith Partnership hosted six international visitors for dialogue on youth and community conflict resolution. This event was unique as Interfaith Partnership engaged youth and leaders from our various faith traditions to participate in this event. The event was held at Eden Theological Seminary and arranged by Rudo Gray from the Council of World Affairs and IP Board member Mary Pedersen.
The six visitors from Nepal, Nigeria, Palau, South Africa, Trinidad/Tobago and Israel were invited to the US for an immersion experience of training and dialogue to examine the impact of leadership training, conflict resolution, mediation, and outreach techniques involving youth. Their visit to St. Louis focused on how our various faith traditions work with youth to train and empower them to be leaders in the community someday. These visitors work and serve NGO’s, are civic and community leaders, government officials and educators from their respected countries and were here under the auspices of the Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program.
Youth and leaders representing the Bosnian Muslims, United Church of Christ, United Methodist, Traditional Judaism, Christian Scientist and the Bahia’ faith spoke eloquently sharing ideas and programing from their various faiths. IP Intern Daniel Shanks designed the dialogue portion of the event.
A few highlights of event were when Nojan (Baha’i) spoke about the Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program. The Empowerment Program directs and harnesses energies of youth for the betterment of their society, develops virtues of kindness, and then teaches the youth to act upon it within their peer groups of friendships. After an analysis of needs, the youth implement a project to serve the community. Alem (Bosnian Muslim) spoke passionately about his mentor and friend Imam Hasic. In speaking about IP’s current Board President, he shared some of the ways he has taught youth about forgiveness, how to make the rituals of the Muslim faith not only meaningful, but fun, and uses soccer as a means of gathering his youth together for wholesome activities. Morgan (Traditional Judaism) had heartfelt comments about the interfaith and outreach efforts that the JCRC teaches. She has had the experience of building friendships with Muslims (JAM) and has utilized the Peer to Peer Program where she is taught how to be ambassador of the Jewish faith. It was very clear that our future Interfaith Partnership leaders were in the room!
Our international visitors shared with us much about the conflicts they experience in their respected countries. But this event proved there are many desiring peace. Interfaith Partnership is grateful to all its members to be a part of this process.