Thursday, April 12, 2018

Asia-Pacific Youth Conference in India

While many were taking a break at the beach or recovering from festive indulgences, six young Australians went to the Asia Pacific Youth Conference (APYC) in Panchgani, India, from 27-December 2017 to 3 January 2018. The APYC serves as a platform for regional dialogue and an incubator in which joint projects for peace building can develop, based on relationships of trust and mutual understanding. Here are some post-conference reflections from participants.

Self-discovery

Elise Sampson from Melbourne valued the daily ‘quiet time’ and a workshop on non-violent communication at the APYC. “This was the recipe for self-discovery,” she wrote. “In a place where self-reflection is fostered…I was less self-critical and more self-caring. The workshop on non-violent communication offered time to identify thoughts, feelings and needs and to meet them in a compassionate way. Having these two practices – non-violent communication and quiet time – has allowed me to have a better relationship with myself and subsequently with other people.

“Back in Melbourne now, work has become more of the joy it was. I’ve invited two friends over for dinner and had honest conversations with them about hurts of the past and how I missed our friendship. I’m sure if I can continue to be honest with myself about my needs and give myself a compassionate approach I will continue to feel more connected to people in my life.”

Leadership

For Yarrie Bangura from Sydney, being at APYC helped her reflect on what qualities a leader should have. A refugee from Sierra Leone at the age of 10, Yarrie began her own business selling ‘Auntie’s Ginger Tonic’ several years ago, and became known for her role in the acclaimed Australian documentary, ‘The Baulkam Hills African Ladies Troupe.’ Being at APYC was a chance for her to step back and consider some changes. “I took the opportunity of using my ‘quiet time’ to think about things that have been bothering me, and to allow myself to be upset but at the same time to work out some solutions. I realized I was still hurt by those who had taken advantage of me,” she wrote.

“As we listened to various speakers and discussions, I started thinking about my leadership roles, abut what a good leader should incorporate in their work. These are two points that came to my mind: to work with inspiration and humanity; and to go beyond self-interest and greed to solve human problems with care and compassion… I am so grateful to be with other young innovative thinkers who are passionate to change the world.”

Community service

Ezechiel (‘Izzy’) Mukundane from Brisbane found inspiration to work with peers in his own African community. One of the youngest participants at APYC, he noted that, “What surprised me the most was how people around my age group were so involved in community-based events, and how they were working to make in difference in their community. It really inspired me to strive for greatness and also to get involved in my community. I believe that change begins within oneself…After the conference I made a decision to start gathering youth in my community so we can do something positive together.”

Faith

Kirsty Argento of the IofC Australia office in Melbourne highlighted the time spent in a group conversation with ‘Uncle’ Rajmohan Gandhi, grandson of the Mahatma. In a session facilitated by Wimarshana Ranasinghe, Gandhi addressed themes of fear, rising intolerance, and the possibility to counter both with love and faith. He urged those from communities in the majority “to feel free to depend on minority communities, to value the richness of diversity, and to show love from their place of power.“

Challenged by a Syrian youth how we can cope with the failure of the democratic process on so many levels in recent years, Gandhi responded that, “We don’t have a visible democratic process that we can rely on. We also don’t have an international structure we can rely on. So what can we rely on? Ourselves, our God, our friends – a team. It can be small and close, or spread out, connected by the Internet…We can have our eyes wide open, we can feel deeply the sorrow, anger and pain. But we can decide that we will never ever lose faith.”

Delia Paul

Australians at APYC in India, December 2017-January 2018

 

Annual APYC conferences have been organized since 1990 to offer young people of the region a chance to build friendships and learn from each other’s experiences of addressing corruption, communal conflict and poverty. Read more about the conferences here. If you would like to be involved in the next one, contact Kirsty Argento.