Malta: young Christians working for peace - 13 September 2005

 In the last days of August sixty young people from across Europe joined together on the island of Malta to seek greater understanding and commitment in the search for peace and respect in the world today.

Delegates from England, France, Italy and Malta from the age of 17-30 met for a week long international exchange entitled Waiving conflict, weaving peace. All the young people were members of the world wide movement of Young Christian Workers (YCW). The YCW offers young people the opportunity to reflect in small groups and trains leaders to take Christian action to make a difference in their own lives and the world.

During the week in Malta the young people spent time growing in awareness of the situations of conflict in each of their countries. The common issue of interracial conflict, particularly between immigrants, was chosen as the basis of the main four day enquiry. Using the famous reflection method of the YCW - See, Judge, Act - the young delegates investigated real examples from their own countries ranging from immigration policy in Malta to terrorism in the United Kingdom.

The young people, with a priest chaplain, examined the issues in the light of their faith. They committed themselves to the fact that all people all united, created equal by God with a common purpose to build up the human family. Nadia Couriol, 23, from the French delegation said: "Our neighbour is not just our fellow Frenchman or Brit, but the stranger from the foreign country we are yet to meet".

By the end of the week each participant and each delegation had resolved to take personal and group action to make a concrete difference into a situation of concern in their own country. Some young people committed to renewing attitudes and others to understanding more about the cultures of their colleagues and neighbours from different ethnic backgrounds. Several individuals began to plan ways of promoting awareness of these issues once they returned home.

Andrea Crispo, 20, from Turin, Italy, said: "We have all committed to make a real difference in our own lives. We may have to start small but if we all ake an effort we can make a real difference in promoting understanding, tolerance and peace".

Each country resolved to make a difference through a variety of actions. The group of young people from Malta committed to hosting a number of social events encouraging young people from many different backgrounds to help plan and run evenings with an international flavour. The English delegation are planning to hold a nationwide enquiry into the situations facing immigrants today by speaking to immigrants themselves and forming partnerships with organisations which work for their welfare.

The actions agreed were specific to each country but united in the quest to raise awareness about the issues examined during the exchange. The four countries decided to continue to work together by continuing to inform each other of the reality of their situations and to work to help each other find solutions and to take common action. Plans are underway to launch an internet forum to allow the young people from all four countries to stay in touch and continue to discuss issues and solutions.

Fr Joe Inguanez, National Chaplain of the YCW in Malta, said: "As members of the YCW we learn not to ignore small problems, nor small solutions."

Danny Curtin, YCW national president in England and Wales described the week as a opportunity to make a real difference. He said: "Working in partnership throughout four countries in Europe is chance for us to grow in friendship and it offers us real potential to improve our own lives and the lives of those around us. Together we can achieve a lot more than what we can possibly imagine achieving on our own."

Amandine Berland, 19, from La Roche Sur Yon, supports groups of young people aged 15-18. She said: "My hope is that when we return to France we will be able to encourage people to reflect on situations of conflict within their own lives. Sometimes people do not realise that they can make an important difference, but we all have the potential to be peacemakers. We cannot impose a treaty for peace. We must have peace within ourselves. We must be willing to solve conflict beginning in our daily lives. Only then can we build respectful relationships between each other and help build a peaceful world."

Roberta Galea 22, is National Treasure of the YCW in Malta and one of the main organisers of the Exchange. "I hope that this is just the start of a string of encounters between groups and individuals." Albert Debano, 30, Maltese YCW National President added, "The differences existing in European cities can become a blessing if we focus on the value of the person as one in the image of God. If we continue to keep in touch and work together we can build friendships and understanding of the many different cultures within our countries. Greater understanding will give us lasting peace.

The YCW Movement was founded in 1925 by a young Belgian priest, Fr Joseph Cardijn, to carry out a special mission among young men and women. It now has over one million members, and is run by young people, among young people, and for young people. It has a special preference to work for the kind of young people who are not highly advantaged financially or educationally, and who find it hard to make their voice heard.

The movement's main purpose is to proclaim to young people that the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit are decisive for their true happiness and freedom. It is committed to making sure that the basic conditions needed for true human fulfilment are possible for all young people.

Through a guided process of reflection and action, See, Judge, Act, the YCW trains young Christian leaders to take a full and active part in society today.

The Maltese Movement was celebrating its 60th anniversary during the international exchange.

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