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Kenya Youth; bridging the gap between religions through Interfaith Tolerance and Dialogue

Kenya Youth; bridging the gap between religions through Interfaith Tolerance and Dialogue

“It is important for the youth to embrace religious tolerance because we are the ones who make peace in the society, but if we are the ones to disrupt peace then the society will perish.” Cheryl Oduor, Mombasa Interfaith Youth.

The Inter-Religious Council of Kenya has been empowering the youth in the counties by holding interfaith dialogues through the ‘Welcoming the Other’ activity where different faiths visit each other places of worship in a bid to understand each other and enhance religious tolerance. The council through collaboration with different stakeholders and like-minded partners have been able to hold inter-generational dialogues, sensitizations and trainings on enhancing peace, cohesion and curbing hate speech. The youth are embracing platforms and spaces where they seek to make their voices heard in order to influence the community.

Cherryl Oduor

For Cherryl Oduor, a youth from Mikindani Catholic Church, in Mombasa County, Changamwe constituency, has been attending peace football tournaments, which involved playing with reformed youth in the community. The youth used this as a platform to call for peace and cohesion in the community. The football tournaments she says have helped her engage with and have a better understanding of how reformed youth have a hard time trying to reintegrate into society.

Cherryl is a member of the Mombasa Inter-Faith Youth Network and has been part of the IRCK peace process involving the youth. She elucidates that through the interactions, she has gained the confidence to continue preaching religious tolerance in her community because she believes that people can live together harmoniously despite their religious, tribal, race or gender differences.

“The tournament and activities have helped us bolster peace within the community by ensuring that there is no segregation or separation because we work with everybody in the society. The community always feels welcomed when they play with us and they see that the religious leaders have made the initiative to ensure that the youth in the community have been reached and have been taught on matters of peace and cohesion,” Cherryl says.

The engagements she said have been of great impact, as they have been pivotal in helping the youth fight idleness. She underscored the fact that the moment a youth is idle, then they can engage in vices, but the moment they are engaged in activities, it gives them a chance to keep off social vices. She has put her focus on the issue of mental health, which she said is a growing concern that needs to be addressed. The current harsh economic times she said have sunk many into depression and other mental health-related issues, which she believes is a ticking time bomb that needs to be addressed soon before it explodes. She is also a member of the Red Cross Society in Mombasa, through their mental health awareness program, Cherryl uses her social media platform especially Twitter to spread hope messages.

“We have been using the platform to encourage people with mental issues to feel free to call out for help and see what tools they can use to help themselves. We have a toll-free number 1199 where one can call and get somebody to talk them through what they are going through,” said Cherryl.

“The IRCK platform she said has helped bridge the gap between religions and encouraged religious tolerance, which she believes is important for everyone in the society.”

She alludes to the fact that sometimes people find it difficult to open up to people they know, and that is why she encourages her peers undergoing mental issues to make use of a toll-free number 1199.

The IRCK platform she said has helped bridge the gap between religions and encouraged religious tolerance, which she believes is important for everyone in the society. Through the Youth Interfaith network, she says she has been able to get a lot of information and demystify myths and misconceptions about other religions. She says that she has been using the platform to ensure that fellow youth get the right information, especially information about religion.

“As a youth, I encourage us to embrace tolerance and embrace our diversity of religion,” she says.

Ambrose Kilonzo

“It is important for the government to come up with volunteering positions for young people in different sectors to help them increase their job experiences. Firms should also be encouraged to employ young people on fair standards and merit as opposed to favours and handouts.” – Ambrose Kilonzo, Executive member, Kenya Interfaith Network

Ambrose draws his affiliation from the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB), and understands that young people play a crucial role in enhancing peace and creating positive change in their communities and beyond.  He has been involved in various activities to promote peace, environmental conservation and enhancing interfaith collaborations among them having participated in discussing and coming up with solutions that affect the youth politically and socio-economically.

One supposed engagement was a National Interfaith Youth Consultation Forum initiated by the Catholic Justice and Peace Department (CJPD) in which young people across all counties came together to do a context analysis of some political issues. The youth engaged in various discussions including tribalism where the participants observed that the Kenyan electoral processes are marred with tribal norms, which dictate that positions of authority belong to some tribes. The youth also concluded that religious institutions are trusted public institutions and as such, should actively participate in implementing civic education among their congregants and ensure they are well enlightened and empowered when making the right choices as pertaining leadership.

Occupational challenges facing the youth are part of the socio-economic issues highlighted during the National Youth Consultative forum.

“Aspects such as unemployment, unrealistic expectations from job seekers and corruption face young people every day. It is important for the government to come up with programs that will allow public-private companies to offer vocational training for the disadvantaged youth.” Says Ambrose

Kilonzo has also participated in environmental conversations.

“I understand that young people are the future custodians of the planet. Environmental issues, such as climate change and biodiversity loss, will have the most significant impact on their lives. By engaging in conservation efforts now, they can help shape a more sustainable future for themselves and future generations. I have therefore participated in giving my voice in coming up with the National Climate Change Action Plan Three (NCCAP III).” – He notes.

The National Youth Consultative forum also addressed the needs of young people and their role in securing the environment.

“In reducing my carbon footprint, I have also participated in tree planting activities.”  He ends.

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