First Published in (Salaam – Quarterly to Promote Understanding. Published by the Islamic Studies Association, New Delhi. Vol 36, April 2015 No.2 ISSN 0970-5384). Printed at Academy Press, Noida.
Whenever I attended an interfaith event I was always amused to see the religious leaders advocate about their own faith and find common grounds to build solidarity. However, a student I was always the recipient only having scope to ask questions or share my opinions. There was always a question on my mind as to how youth from various religious backgrounds who are not scholars in scriptures would respond to the call of interfaith dialogue. As Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see”, I determined to create this opportunity with few individuals who are likeminded and are working closely in the area of interfaith dialogue.
On 14th October 2014, Don Bosco Youth Services (DBYS), Mumbai animators Fr. Glenford and Fr. Cleophas, along with Ms. Marina the Social Political Co-ordinator of DBYS and Ms. Divya, Resource Person and member of DBYS had a skype meet with the Catholic Human Rights Activist from Malaysia belonging to the SALT (School of Acting Justly, Loving Tenderly and Treading Humbly with God) Movement to understand the Human Rights Issue in Malaysia and also to learn the methodology to train youngsters for social justice work. The speakers were Erlinda Joseph and Amanda Leonie. The discussion began with introduction of the participants and by introducing SALT movement and the SYM (Salesian Youth Movement). Erlinda shared her university experience and the challenges she faced when joining the SALT work for Human Rights. Belonging to the Orang Asli indigenous community, she has worked towards the rights of her people, also motivating her village members to join for social justice work. Likewise, Amanda belonging to the Dusan indigenous community shared her experience for the same. She shared her struggle to fight the Bakun dam along with other Human Rights activist. The other ideas covered in the conversation were challenges from home and the church, challenges in attracting youth for Human Rights programme, application of theology (the church’s teaching) in social justice work, importance of leadership and ideas on movement building. The discussion was fruitful in understanding the challenges of Human Rights, inspiring the DBYS team to work towards social issues in India. The meet also helped in working out a methodology to involve youth in social political sphere for awareness and action oriented activities. Towards the end of the meeting both the groups decided to be in solidarity with each other and share resources to work towards building awareness on Human Rights.
Since the participation of Gujarat Representatives in the Chennai Conference held in July-2001, various meetings were held in order to begin the ICMICA Unit in Gujarat. Fr. Erwin, Director, Ashadeep Human Development Center, Vallabh Vidyanagar was officially nominated as ICMICA-Gujarat Advisor. Since then, we have been organizing meetings at regular intervals.