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Muslim Council of Elders says peacemakers conference to empower young people

The Emerging Peacemakers Forum aims to empower youth to contribute to building a better future for themselves and humanity, the secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Elders said at a meeting in Geneva.

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Judge Mohamed Abdelsalam, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Elders, co-president of Religions for Peace, and a judge at the Egyptian Council of State.

 Photo: Grégoire de Fombelle/WCC (12 July 2023)

Judge Mohamed Abdelsalam affirmed that the forum, one of the initiatives of the Muslim Council of Elders, aims to “create a small space for young people to talk and speak up and then for the older ones, the leaders, to listen.”

Abdelsalam is secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Elders, co-president of Religions for Peace, and a judge at the Egyptian Council of State.

On arrival at the World Council of Churches (WCC) Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, he greeted each of the participants.

At the forum, 50 young people from Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Europe, the youngest being 20, are taking in the event hosted by the WCC, Muslim Council of Elders, and Rose Castle Foundation, just outside Geneva, Switzerland.

The Emerging Peacemakers Forum is being held 5-14 July.

Abdelsalam is the first Arab Muslim to receive the medal of Commander with Star from the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, for his efforts at promoting interreligious dialogue. 

Abdelsalam represents the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar on Religions for Peace's highest leadership body, its World Council.

"I hope that after this forum, we will receive your ideas and proposals for initiatives and projects in writing."

He urged those participating in the forum to have confidence in themselves and their ability to shape the future.

Exchanging ideas with the forum participants, Abdelsalam said that the Muslim Council of Elders has a great interest in youth through various initiatives and efforts to harness their potential to become positive influencers in their communities.

He called upon the youth to build upon what they have learned in this forum edition and to be a source of inspiration for others, following the example of graduates from the first edition who have become leading and influential role models among their peers and in their communities.

Abdelsalam also emphasized the importance of education in building generations capable of promoting peace and adhering to values of dialogue, tolerance, coexistence, and confronting the rhetoric of hate, bigotry, and discrimination.

He highlighted that the Muslim Council of Elders seeks to incorporate values of dialogue, respect, acceptance, and human fraternity into educational programs in collaboration with global academic institutions.

The judge also reiterated the council's efforts to highlight the importance of educating girls and empowering women.

Organizers said the forum emerged through the recurring dialogues between the East and the West, initiated by the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, to build bridges of dialogue and cooperation between the East and the West.

Students from the Emerging Peacemakers Forum will graduate on 13 July in the Main Hall of the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva. The program will feature words of welcome by WCC general secretary Rev. Prof Dr Jerry Pillay, who will also offer a keynote address.

Judge Abdelsalam and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Justin Welby, will offer additional keynote messages. Filippo Grandi, United Nations high commissioner for Refugees, will also share a message.

The first edition of the Emerging Peacemakers Forum was held in England in 2018.

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