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ACWAY Forum in Khartoum, Sudan 2017

By Yasmine Bouguerche

By the end of July 2017, a finely chosen group of youth with high spirits landed at the modest airport of Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. The small size of the airport did not by any means reflect the grandiosity of the ACWAY forum they were just about to attend.

A Common Word Among the Youth (ACWAY) is a youth foundation, based entirely on voluntary efforts with the objective of forming and uniting youth activists around the world, working on peace and harmony in their communities at different levels. It aims to spread a spirit of coexistence within communities with diverse religious and multiple cultural backgrounds.

For its third Forum, the Youth Secretariat of the National Congress played hosts. More than 100 participants from more than 40 countries gathered to discuss interfaith and intercultural dialogue in their countries and elaborate on possible solutions to the current problems they are facing.

The participants had the opportunity to attend workshops on the principles of dialogue and conflict resolution. The workshops were conducted by well-experienced intellectuals and influential activists like Dr. Brian Adams, Director of Centre of Interfaith and Cultural Dialogue at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia and Dr. Hany El-Banna, the founder of the Islamic Relief Worldwide, as well our very own activist, Rawaad Mahyub, Chairman of ACWAY. These sessions aimed to equip and further enhance the potential of the participants to deal with the issues related to religious and cultural tensions and various approaches to resolve them.

In addition to the grassroots activities, the participants had many spaces to connect, exchange ideas and plan their future activities to promote co-existence in their communities. These spaces are in the core of the program as they lead to the creation of a youth network, gathering representatives of all religions and religious affiliations. This network is fundamental for such causes as it provides a healthy space for an intellectual exchange, practical and theoretical help and opportunities to support and collaborate between communities.

This years’ forum ended with the launch of ACWAY’s Interfaith Development Goals (IDGs), in which all local and international attendees agreed to adhere by and promote a set of principles, objectives and targets that advocate and promote respect and understanding – religious and cultural, justice for minorities and women empowerment.

The event left a very positive impact upon the participants. It was very informative and most importantly, it made possible an exchange of ideas between youth living in opposing regions of the world and provided them with a platform to meet and talk about their concerns. Moreover, the learning received from the speakers and local experts helped the participants to better shape their programs and strategies to tackle interfaith dialogues in their respective communities.

As in every event, each one of us came with certain thoughts, prejudices, and conceptions about Sudan and the event, especially that it was, for most of us, the first time in Sudan. Not only those prejudices vanished, but most of us fell in love with Sudan and Sudanese people, culture, and spirit.

I would like to finish with what I think was the most valuable benefit from this event, at least for me: Hope. After presenting my future project to develop intra-faith dialogue in Algeria within the Muslim community, Ksatrya, a young activist from Indonesia, approached me and said: “As long as there are people like you who believe, we can make this happen, I still have hope”. I am sure most of the participants felt hopeful at some moment or the other during this event; they were hopeful to see that there are still young people who work hard to make this world a more tolerant and beautiful place to live in.