Davao youth leaders, mentors join the Southeast Asian Youth for Humanity Workshop in Yogyakarta

The Davao Delegation. Lto R: Gonzales, Angon, Angas, Lamanilao, Ramirez.
The Davao Delegation. Lto R: Gonzales, Angon, Angas, Lamanilao, Ramirez.

The Southeast Asian Youth for Humanity (SEA Y4H) network, comprising young people from major cities in Southeast Asia, recently concluded its Strategic Planning Workshop in Yogyakarta City, Indonesia, from April 26-29, 2024. The workshop brought together at least 27 delegates representing various religions and faiths from cities including Bangkok, Davao, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and the host city, Yogyakarta.

Five (5) young leaders and mentors from Davao City who are engaged in interreligious dialogue (IRD) joined the delegation, including three Christians: Fr. Jessel Gonzales, SJ, and Kenny Lloyd Angon from the Ateneo de Davao University (ADDU) and Perry Paul Lamanilao from the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) as well as Aldriena Thehani Angas, a Muslim from the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID), and Efraim Ramirez from the Matigsalog Tribe of the city.

The SEA Y4H network, which was established in May 2023 during the Southeast Asia Dialogue Cities Conference in Bangkok, Thailand, organized by the KAICIID International Dialogue Centre, aims to promote peacebuilding through intercultural, interfaith, and interreligious dialogues. The network will be officially launched in September 2024 in Davao City during the second Southeast Asia Dialogue Cities Conference. It is being led by Kenny Lloyd Angon as its Lead Convenor. 

Thehani Angas, a participant from Davao City, expressed her gratitude to the SEA Y4H network for facilitating a platform where young leaders from across Southeast Asian cities could share their experiences in interreligious dialogue. 

“Even though the workshop was just for three days, we learned and experienced so much. We had so many meaningful conversations with our speakers and co-delegates from other countries in ASEAN. What is inspiring is that the delegates marry IRD with other dimensions of dialogue such as cultural or in ways that they implement their peacebuilding and PCVE strategies. Indeed, there are a multitude of ways on how they incorporate IRD into our work”, Angas said during a radio interview. 

Organized in partnership with GUSDUrian Network Indonesia and supported by the KAICIID International Dialogue Centre, the workshop provided a platform for young people to consolidate concerns related to youth engagement in interfaith dialogue. Participants identified activities and developed a strategic action plan for the network's next one to three years, focusing on collaboration with other sectors, including women, religious and government leaders, and the academe. 

As part of the workshop, delegates visited cultural and religious sites in Yogyakarta City, including the Keraton Ngayogyakarta Hadiningrat, Gereja Hati Kudus Yesus (Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus), and the GUSDUrian National Secretariat Headquarter.

In her statement, Ms. Vera Ferreira, KAICIID Head of Regional Programmes, emphasized the crucial role of young people in strengthening interfaith dialogue in Southeast Asia. She highlighted the need for youth engagement in promoting social cohesion, supported by policymakers, civil society leaders, and religious actors.

“As we see the number of young people in Southeast Asia moving to cities in search of education and economic opportunities, rapidly developing areas will continue to need interfaith and intercultural facilitators, bridge builders, to support social cohesion, combined with efforts of both policymakers and civil society leaders, including religious actors in the cities,” Ferreira said. 

Vice Governor of the Special Region of Yogyakarta, Paku Alam X, commended the active engagement of young people, stating that their involvement is crucial in achieving global goals for freedom of religion and belief. He emphasized the importance of collaboration across all sectors of society.

He said that this gathering of young people in the region “is not only a showing of active engagement by members of society to collaborate with the government, but also an authentic expression of the recognition that young people cannot use their age as an excuse to be indifferent and uninvolved.”

“We must recognize that, despite all current commitments and efforts, the level of acknowledgment and respect for freedom of religion and beliefs in practice remains to fall below global goals. “It is crucial to acknowledge that, just like in fulfilling other aspects of human rights, the involvement of all sectors of society is essential,” Vice Governor Alam X added.

The workshop concluded with a commitment to support ASEAN programs that empower youth to promote peace and foster dialogue in the region. The network plans to conduct another workshop on media and communications in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, towards the end of the year to enhance the capacity of young leaders to communicate their programs and advocacies. PR

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