One Humanity Symposium addresses the Role of Youth in Peacebuilding

On July 22nd 2016, AYUDH Europe organized a high-level symposium “One Humanity”, held at the historic Kloster Eberbach monastery in Eltville Am Rhein, Germany. Bringing together leading voices in the fields of politics, diplomacy, activism, spirituality and education with 300 young participants from AYUDH’s annual European Youth Summit, this gathering aimed to encourage a paradigm shift from a narrow focus on personal, political and cultural identities to a more fundamental human identity, and the shared need to be respected, understood and loved for who we are.

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This year, July 22nd  marked the fifth anniversary of the 2011 Utøya and Oslo massacres, in which 77 people—mostly youth—lost their lives in the tragic attacks in Norway. As a partner organisation of the Council of Europe, AYUDH supports the Council’s efforts to establish July 22nd as the European Day for Victims of Hate Crimes. The Symposium played host to the launch of the No Hate Speech Movement digital campaign in Germany. AYUDH youth also presented an official Youth Declaration, the culmination of input from 150 young Europeans, which was applauded by the political leadership present.

It is imperative to actively engage youth in building peace and preventing violent conflict, as recognized in the historic UN resolution 2250. According to the UNDP, one quarter (1.8 billion) of all the world’s people were aged between 10 and 24 years in 2014—making it the largest population of young people the world has seen. Some of the most destructive armed struggles today, including the rapid rise of violent extremism and radical fundamentalist ideologies are being fought in regions of the world that are home to the most youthful populations. Europe is no less immune to these acts fueled by separation and fear, as recent events continue to remind us.

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In his keynote address, Swami Amritaswarupananda Puri, Vice Chairman of Mata Amritanandamayi Math, urged leaders to listen to young people. “These young minds,” he said, “are the answer for all the challenges our world, our planet Earth, is facing today.” Bjørn Ihler, a young activist who survived the Utøya massacre, related his moving and powerful experience of confronting his attacker and his personal journey to forgiveness. He expressed appreciation for Amma’s message of love, saying, “I think we need to start here and build on what Amma does, build rituals of love to counteract the politics of hate and fear that currently drive the world.”

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Anne Brasseur, the official ambassador of the No Hate Speech Movement of the Council of Europe, presented the rationale behind the No Hate campaign to protect European values. “We must understand that with hate we are destroying our societies. We need a narrative of equality, of solidarity, of peace for all of us. We need youth in order to spread the message that we have to live in a life without fear,” she said. Martine Reicherts, Director-General of Education and Culture, European Commission delivered the closing remarks. She affirmed the central message of the event, saying, “The One Humanity Symposium is about love, about sharing values – I think this is really a step in the right direction. Often in politics, we do not dare to use the word love – but I think we should dare to say it, and to practice it. Love is a universal language and we have to return to it.”

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Ahmad Alhendawi, the United Nations Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth delivered a special video message on the occasion, calling on today's generation of young people to contribute to meaningful social and political change. He commended AYUDH for organizing this timely event and collaborating with high-level experts and stakeholders on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development:

AYUDH is an international youth movement founded and inspired by renowned spiritual and humanitarian leader Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi), and now numbers 3000 members from more than 27 countries across Europe and the Mediterranean region. AYUDH seeks to empower young people to make social and political change for more inclusive and peaceful societies through self-development, inner transformation and collective action, developing compassionate leaders with a sense of tolerance, solidarity and global responsibility. The Symposium was organized by M.A. Center Germany - Seminarzentrum Hof Herrenberg e.V., supported by the Council of Europe’s European Youth Foundation, SAP and the Kloster Eberbach Foundation and carried out in partnership with the United Nations Inter-Agency-Network on Youth Development and the No Hate Speech Movement.

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