Youth and interreligious dialogue: the ethics of conflict transformation

Encountering ethics formation has become a life-changing experience. Ethics have been not only an education tool, but also an opportunity of self-discovery that has permeated in my interpersonal relationships and, ultimately, my professional encounters.

As a professional in peacebuilding, I have been interested in different aspects of social identities and how they impact social cohesion and the likelihood of sustaining peaceful societies. I find religious identities one of the most fascinating features in my work. While this interest was initially rooted in my active spirituality at the Methodist church, it was my academic and professional interreligious encounters that led me into the practice of tearing down stereotypes and negative connotations from other religious groups. Moreover, from such practices has derived a transformative ethics of otherness and, ultimately, a more comprehensive interreligious work and action that cultivates mutual understanding.

To date, the demographic cohort in which I develop most of this interreligious work is with people between 18 and 29 years old. They are the largest youth population in history (1.8 billion); nevertheless, 600 million live in fragile contexts. Young people are usually portrayed as perpetrators or troublemakers and when religion is added to this equation, it is common to read academic literature or project reports on the lines of radicalisation and violent extremism. These approaches do not make visible the youth leadership and active participation in positive transformation on one side, and, on the other side, the positive role of religion on the cultivation of trust and hospitality, shared vision, purpose, and hope.'s Interreligious Cooperation for Peace course came at an ideal time. I was co-facilitating the youth-focused interreligious Enemy, Stranger, Neighbor, Friend program from the Global Network for Excellence in Theology (University of Bonn) and the Institute for Faith and Flourishing. The live sessions and practice-oriented assignments that form a key part of courses helped me to be more sensitive in ethical values for dialogue with youth leaders from different religious identities. Through this learning, I have become more intentional in cultivating transformed dialogue grounded in our diversity, and in developing friendships as well as academic and practical collaborations toward peace.

These learnings accompany me in my current professional projects. As co-lead trainer of the Young Peacebuilders Latin America and the Caribbean edition of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), the course has raised my attention in listening more actively to young peace activists’ concerns about conflict in the societies that make up our region. Also, I have been able to provide new perspectives on interfaith and intercultural approaches, including awareness of political, social, and economic contextual hindrances of potential local dialogue. The knowledge I have gained through is now being shared with these Latin American and Caribbean young leaders that are working in the field.

We are living in an epoch in which education refers not only to the formal systems but also to more inclusive and innovative ways of building knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values using different modalities, including online courses. I am beyond thankful for educational spaces such as because they exemplify not only a place of learning opportunities but also a unique vision of constructing 'educational ecosystems' with an expansive impact. The gained education and knowledge in these courses have the potential to transform individual mindsets and skills, flourish hospitable attitudes among persons, renovate societal levels with mutual understanding, and transform entire ecosystems with resilience, justice, and peace.

Lani Anaya
Peace and Sustainable Development Consultant
Course Participant, Interreligious Cooperation for Peace



Photo of stained glass by Pavlos Vaenas on Unsplash

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