AUSTRALIAN EMBASSY HOSTS FORUM ON
THE ROLE OF YOUTH IN PEACE-BUILDING
On 19 June the Australian Embassy, in cooporation with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), hosted a forum on “The Role of Youth in Peace-building”. The aim of the forum was to explore how religious communities and civil society groups can successfully use the youth sector to help build stronger bridges of cooperation and mutual understanding between people of different cultures and religions. The forum also served to update the participants on the ongoing preparations for World Youth Day (WYD08) in Sydney from 15-20 July. Over one hundred representatives, mainly from Manila and Mindanao, participated in the event to share their experiences and to focus on developing future projects aimed at assisting the youth in their role as peace-builders. Australian visitors Bishop Michael Putney of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference; Muslim community leader Dr Jamal Rifi, President of the Lakemba Sport and Recreation Club in Sydney; and Ms Chantelle Ogilvie, WYD08 coordinator; also participated actively in the forum and during related meetings in Manila.
“The forum was an innovative way for the participants to exchange ideas on alternative avenues to address problems of social tension and disharmony,” said Ambassador Rod Smith (fourth from right). “The Embassy already supports the work of many civil society organisations in Manila and Mindanao on these issues, and we were grateful that some of them were present to share their knowledge and expertise during the forum.”
Joining Ambassador Smith are (from L-R) Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma, SJ, Chairman of the Episcopal Commission of Inter-religious Dialogue- CBCP; Ms Jana Jean Dacobor, Youth Co-ordinator of the Bishops-Ulama Conference; Ms Donna Magno of the Kids for Peace Foundation; Bishop Michael Putney; Ms Chantelle Ogilvie; Dr Jamal Rifi; and Agustino Panganon and Larry Lahing of the Kids for Peace Foundation.
Dr Jamal Rifi, recipient of the 2007 Australian Human Rights Community Award (right) and Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma, SJ, Chairman of the Episcopal Commission of Inter-religious Dialogue- Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), exchange ideas during the Australian Embassy’s recently held forum on “The Role of Youth in Peace-building”.
Organised in partnership with the CBCP, the forum’s 100 plus participants explored how religious communities and civil society groups can successfully use the youth sector to help build stronger bridges of cooperation and mutual understanding between people of different cultures and religions.
Dr Rifi, President of Lakemba Sport and Recreation Club, shared his experiences in using sports as a means to defuse community tensions. The Sydney suburb of Lakemba is best described as multi-ethnic and highly diverse with around 68 percent of the population born overseas. Dr. Rifi cited the role his organisation plays in encouraging positive cultural interaction through an inclusive, safe and friendly environment that addresses the religious, ethnic, social and economic barriers faced by the community.
The Australian Government also supports efforts by Philippine organisations to build stronger bridges of cooperation and social cohesion. The Strengthening Grassroots Interfaith Dialogue and Understanding (SGIDU) Program, managed by the Australian Embassy, offers funding assistance to projects that promote peace-building and anti-violence messages on the ground in Manila and Mindanao. For more information please log on to www.philippines.embassy.gov.au.