The 1st HWPL Religious Youth Peace Camp, “Strength in Peace”, was held in Tbilisi, Georgia between the 25th and 27th of July this year. Youths from the Georgian Orthodox Church, Islam, ISKCON and the Evangelical Baptist Church gathered together at the Saakashvili Presidential Library to awaken the spirit of peace within Georgian youths.
Throughout the three-day program participating youths discussed the importance of religion and the role of the youth within those religions in the work of achieving peace. Each day of the camp was conducted under a different theme, including Communication & Understanding, Love & Peace, and Spreading the Culture of Peace. During this time the youths had the opportunity to express their opinions and further instill the importance of peace in their hearts.
From the first day of the camp, youths from different religious backgrounds formed groups and together engaged in various recreational activities to break down any inherent or unconscious barriers between them. By the end of the three days, participants realized that all people can be united by sharing the same goal, as well as the fact that the common goal of all religions is peace. Also, after understanding how important their role as the youth is, they decided to participate in the Peace Letter Campaign and wrote letters to the heads of state to request support and cooperation for peace in Georgia.
One of the letters read, “As you know peace is very important for this country and especially for every individual, therefore I am going to speak about it. There are so many conflicts in this world, which cause restlessness, therefore peace gets lost. Therefore, I saw the need to participate in projects like HWPL Camps or other peace events and establish such organizations for preparing world peace. All people should participate in such organizations and work together independent of different faiths, physical disability or social views which represent mankind because we all are building the society of this country.”
Many youths felt that they were able to meet new friends from different religions, learn more about other religions and cultures, share their opinions about peace, and, in the end, participate in the work of peace directly. One of the participants added, “The camp lets me think about peace and religions more deeply. We are people, we are a big family and that’s the main thing. It had effects on me, so it will have effects on the country as well.”
When asked about why a platform such as the HWPL Religious Youth Peace Camp is essential for the continued progress towards world peace, a Muslim student commented, “It is important because many people don’t know other religions and their opinions. HWPL helps to bring people to come together for peace.” A member of the Evangelical Baptist Church said, “…because it helps young people to have an idea of the culture of peace and it can help them to share it with others in society.” A youth from the Orthodox Church said, “It’s important to let people think about a better future without wars.”
The participants of the 1st HWPL Religious Youth Peace Camp are already excited for the second camp, and they are determined to work for peace as youth representatives in Georgia. More activities of the International Peace Youth Group (IPYG) are anticipated to take place in Georgia in the near future.