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Youth Statement from Nairobi, Kenya

 STATEMENT OF THE 3RD MEETING
OF THE RELIGIONS FOR PEACE INTERNATIONAL YOUTH COMMITTEE
“CONFRONTING VIOLENCE AND ADVANCING SHARED SECURITY”


19 DECEMBER 2008 | NAIROBI, KENYA
World’s Religious Youth Working Together


We, the Religions for Peace International Youth Committee (IYC) are the multi-religious youth leadership body of Religions for Peace, the world’s largest representative coalition of religious communities working to advance common action for peace.  

We fourteen members of the IYC represent the major world religions in the six regions of the world: Africa, Asia and Pacific, Europe, Latin America and Caribbean, Middle East, and North America.  

Violence is a global phenomenon. Our individual and community security is threatened by armed conflict, human rights abuse, genocide and state sponsored repression, exploitation of children, gender based violence, as well as violent crime.  

Direct physical threats are the most commonly offered definition of violence, but reality calls for a much broader understanding of violence in the world that includes the effects of poverty, disease and environmental degradation. Extreme poverty threatens individual security. Lives of millions of people, especially children, are lost annually to preventable and treatable diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, and typhoid. Serious climatic conditions characterized by unreliable rainfall, increased desertification, and global warming pose a challenge to human existence.

Africa has suffered its share of violence and its negative impact on life. For years, the continent has had the highest population of refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the world.  Millions of communities, families, and individuals are exposed to the reality of violence, which manifests itself both as direct and chronic threats to individual and shared security.  

We have gathered here in Nairobi, Kenya, to confront violence and advance shared security. We chose Kenya for this meeting following the announcement of the results of the general elections in Kenya on 30 December 2007, when sporadic violence erupted countrywide among various communities. In addition to major concerns of structural violence, people lost their lives and livelihoods. People were attacked, homes and businesses burnt, and property looted and destroyed.  

The youth were victims, perpetrators, and also defenders of their communities. The informal settlement of Kibera in Nairobi was seriously affected by the violence. We visited Kibera to show solidarity with the religious youth who chose their own path instead of perpetrating violence. They focused their efforts in mobilizing other youth to protect their families and friends irrespective of which tribe they came from.  

Young religious leaders entered into partnership with some already-organized community groups like the Soweto Youth Group, a community-based organization comprising youth from Kibera. The group and its members act as peacebuilders and agents of change. Among other activities, the group is involved in improving their community through waste management, and general youth educational initiatives and empowerment activities.  

During the post-election violence, they held several peace forums to discuss the underlying issues that were very critical in bringing calm back to Kibera. They displayed the power of intercultural engagement and multi-religious cooperation for peace.

Multi-religious cooperation leads to millions of believers working together for peace. This advances concrete multi-religious efforts to resolve violent conflicts and prevent them from breaking out. We reject the status quo by confronting violence and opposing the abuse of religion in support of violent threats to peace.

In Kenya, as well as in the rest of the world, youth have been key actors in brewing conflicts. It is then paramount that the youth who are both victims and perpetrators of violence are involved in all initiatives meant to bring about peace. As global agents for peace, we will bring the message of the youth of Kibera to the Minister of Youth in Kenya, the global youth network and derive inspiration from it as we continue our work.