Interfaith Youth Affirmation – India

Climate change produces worldwide disasters

Interfaith Youth in India recently committed to common action on humanitarian issues such as Poverty, Violence, Climate Change and Gender Justice.

The future of humanity is often viewed as a topic of speculations, fears and hopes. All major religions have teachings about the ultimate destiny of humanity or how the world will come to an end. Eschatological themes have also been greatly discussed nowadays in science fiction, portraying a picture of gloom and despair. However the future of humanity need not be looked at always with despair and disappointment, humans have the potential to make their present and future better with their humble and committed efforts, if they are willing to walk together striving towards a better tomorrow.

It is in this context Interfaith Youth Summit 2011 focusing on the theme, Together Towards Tomorrow: Youth Rethinking Future of Humanity was organized by the Interfaith Coalition for Peace and Commission on Youth of the National Council of Churches in India from 21 to 25 June 2011 at St. Xavier’s Villa, Khandala. Young people representing Baha’i, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Muslim and Sikh faiths committed to networking together mainly focusing on four major common concerns that threaten the future of human existence i.e. Poverty, Violence, Climate Change and Gender Justice.

Poverty: Humanity down through the centuries is facing the problems of poverty and hunger and this is also the cause of concern for the future survival of humanity too. Today more than 1.2 billion people live under conditions of extreme poverty. That is to say, one in every five persons on earth survives on less than fifty rupees a day. More than 2.4 billion people have no sanitation facilities; there is no access to safe drinking water, and a staggering figure of 852 million people suffers every day the pain of hunger. India has serious poverty conditions. According to surveys 33%, i.e. one third of world’s poor, live in India. It has the highest malnutrition among children under 3 years in the world and 75% of the poor live in rural areas. Evidently, this poverty situation and widening gap between the rich and the poor has serious consequences in the future, especially developing nations.

Violence: Another critical issue that humanity today globally faces is the rise of violence and disruption of peace through religious intolerance. Religious violence is a global religious impulse particularly evident in this century that seeks to recover and publicly institutionalize aspects of the past that modern life has obscured. Religious fundamentalists take their cues from sacred texts and maximize the distinction between humanity and religion. We are also facing global challenges like terrorism and militancy. The immediate human victims of terrorism and violence are generally chosen randomly; they are ‘targets of opportunity’ or selectively ‘representative or symbolic targets’ from a target population, and serve as message generators. Also it is interesting to note that the two challenges poverty and religious intolerances are intrinsically intertwined with militancy. Poverty and deprivation is the recruiting ground for violent militants. Religious fundamentalism indoctrinates their minds and accelerates this process of violence.

Climate Change: It is said that disasters are natural, but our recent experiences reveal that most of the disasters are human-made. Irresponsible mining of minerals and stones, destroying the existing trees, water sources, and streams are examples of human atrocities on environment. Deforestation is causing drought, flood, and soil erosion. As a result the subaltern communities have been uprooted from their organic habitats the forests, the land, and the coastal regions and they have become climate refugees in their homeland. Climate change must not be simply viewed as variations in temperature; it is an environmental crisis which is disproportionately shared by humans. The impact of climate-induced disasters is borne mainly by indigenous people even though their carbon footprint is insignificant when compared with that of the dominant communities.

Gender Justice: Gender justice demands ending the inequalities between women and men that are produced and reproduced in the family, the community, the market and the state. Violence against women and girls, one of the most widespread human rights violations in the world, continues to cost lives and stunt social and economic opportunities for women, communities and nations. Gender justice will remain out of reach unless this scourge is addressed and eliminated. The demand of the time is to increase women’s voices in decision-making by ensuring their full participation in society. This change should range from autonomy in the household to recognition of their voice in all political processes, as women should be represented in political and public life on equal terms with men. Lack of education and poverty can exacerbate women’s disempowerment; women’s participation is essential to gender-responsive governance.

Interfaith Youth Commit Themselves

  • To facilitating a relational convergence of religious experiences and religious resources that lead to mutual conversion (Turning to, and Growing in the Truth);
  • To conceiving inter-religious relations and religious resources of the world as a common asset to be utilized for the benefit of the whole humanity;
  • To developing an interfaith youth reflective capacity which critically analyzes the challenges communities face and to work out appropriate strategies in their respective regions and religions; and
  • To initiating grassroots interfaith youth perspectives and movements for facilitating the common good of the community.

Source: South Asia Mail

Photo Credit: IRIN News