The young people of the world, of all faiths, have something important to contribute
While the voices of many Catholic youth will be heard this week at World Youth Day, we can't forget what Muslim youth have to say about a way forward in the world.
By guest blogger Jennifer Hardy
World Youth Day 2011 is a gathering of Catholics in Madrid, but it also a good time to think about interreligious dialogue for two reasons: One, it was in Cordoba, Spain in the Middle Ages where people of many faiths lived together and found common ground for common good. Two, it is important to listen to the voices of youth I heard recently in another capital city, Cairo.
I traveled to Egypt in June for my work with Catholic Relief Services, in part to meet with young people and learn about their views on the future in light of the Arab Spring. One small group of Christian and Muslim young people embodied four words:
Ingenuity. Tenacity. Positivity. Hope.
A young woman named Asmaa spoke of how frustrated she was during the protests when some local clerics said young people had no place in determining Egypt’s future political process.
"I organized with my friends on Facebook and blogs,” she said. “And when it was time to talk to the religious leaders, we knew which ones wouldn't listen to us because of our age. We convinced older family members to accompany us so our ideas would be respected. I may be young, but I know how the system is built. More importantly, I know how to work within that system to get things done."
Two of the young men, Amir and Khaled, came up with an idea: educate taxi drivers about the political process and the choices ahead for their country. Khaled, a young lawyer, said, "Taxi drivers may meet 50 people every day, and they are always looking to share news to pass the time. If we give them accurate information, imagine how that knowledge will spread."
Other young people in the room are also doing their part to shape a "new Egypt." An investigative journalist writes about injustice and social change. A therapist counsels families who lost loved ones during the revolution. Lawyers advocate for human rights, and social workers make sure people have access to services during political transition.
These young people don't represent everyone in Egypt—I get that. There will be extremists arguing for a religious state, others seeking military rule, many advocating restrictions on personal freedoms. But such extreme voices would have to prevail against young people like Asmaa, Amir, Khaled and thousands of other leaders in Egypt—many of them under the age of 30—who want to see a fair and safe country for everyone.
My money will be on young people like them, on their energy, their ingenuity, tenacity, positivity and hope, every time. It is a good bet that all of those qualities will be on display in Madrid, too.
Jennifer Hardy is a communications officer for digital media with Catholic Relief Services.
For the week of August 15 - August 19, we'll be featuring reflections from guest bloggers in celebreation of World Youth Day 2011. To submit your reflection, email firstname.lastname@example.org with no more than 500 words. We cannot promise your submission will be published.
Guest blog posts express the views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of U.S. Catholic, its editors, or the Claretians.