The 5th World Youth Congress
“This is the fast moving global change and in such times the importance of youth becomes more and more important than ever. If we want our world to be more peaceful, more just, with more opportunities for all, it will only be possible as a result of the young people’s action today”.
-David Woolcombe, The director of the Peace Child International
The 5th world Youth Congress was held in Istanbul, Turkey, from 31st July till 14th of August, 2010. The World Youth Congress is the meeting point for the world’s youth. It is being initiated under the Non-profit organization called Peace child International based in UK. Since its establishment in 1999, launching the 1st Worlds Youth Congress in Hawaii, it has been happening once every two year. The 2nd was held in Morocco, third in Scotland, 4th in Quebec City in Canada and 5th being in Istanbul, Turkey.
I along with two other youths from Bhutan was privileged to represent Bhutan in such a renowned congress. There were 1600 participants from 172 countries of the world. This year’s theme for the Congress was kept was “imece” a Turkish word meaning joint Action.
While in Turkey, we had 6 days of workshop and 4 days of Action Project. The workshop was basically on regional developments and issues faced by the world youths today. There were also some other workshops on conflict resolutions, power of play etc…. during action projects, 1600 youths were divided into 38 groups. My group was placed to the Eastern state called Afyon, which is 9 hours drive from Istanbul and west to the capital city Ankara.
The four days of action projects were ridiculous and mundane full of eating ice cream and cakes at restaurants for free and propaganda about Turkish lifestyles– much of it was a publicity stunt and every five minutes we had to pose for the camera with the video crew in tow. The purpose of the action project was to build a more sustainable community and for1600 global delegates to foster a deeper understanding about the issues within Turkey and the world. We planted some trees, and helped the state government pick their fruits.
My two weeks in Istanbul really made me contemplate the meaning of relationships, community and the importance of stable friendships. It’s not very often that you get to have Indonesian, Bulgarian and Ugandan roommates. There are also very few places where you can have lunch with a Conservative Muslim, a liberal Chinese living in Canada with Communist parents, a Romanian student living in America and a El Salvadorians going to a United World College in Canada. The friends I’ve made there – I plan to keep them for life. In fact, I have made a pact to attend many of their weddings. I’ve really had a genuine cross-cultural experience. I went to the mosque least not every day – and I had in-depth discussions with many Muslims, Christians and Jews about their religion.
I know that I’m not the most avidly religious person in the world – but I’ve sat in a mosque before during the prayer calls – where flocks of people would flood in, put their shoes in plastic bags and then set out to pray. As the congregation crossed their body as is tradition in the Catholic Church – I couldn’t help but contrast the Buddhist monasteries and temples making comparisons. Either way, to enter the Paro Taktshang or the Blue Mosque requires some modest dress. I accompanied a friend of mine as he went to the mosque to pray. He informed me that out of all the European-Asian countries, Turkey is the most welcoming in terms of religious faiths. Christians, Muslims and Jews apparently all live there in harmony – without persecution.
We came back to Istanbul from Action project on 11th of August. On 12th we had closing ceremony and open youth march along the street. The closing ceremony was graced by the Turkish Minister of the State, Faruk Nafiz Ozak. With this the congress came to an end and I have had most fabulous experience of my life. Thanks to the School administration for necessary support and the Ministry of Education, Royal government of Bhutan for making a moment of my life so special.