The role of youth in fighting poverty and making peace

The role of youth in fighting poverty and making peace

Reception at Chancellor Green Rotunda for the Poverty and Peacemaking Conference at Princeton University, 19-20 September 2014. (Photo by Hannah Hirsch, courtesy Office of Religious Life at Princeton University)
Princeton, New Jersey, USA—20 September 2014

The role of poverty alleviation as a critical component in peace-building was the focus of a recent conference here that drew a wide range of scholars, development specialists, philanthropists, and religious and community leaders.

Daniel Perell, a representative of the Baha’i International Community, was asked to speak at a roundtable discussion on “Fostering Youth Agency” in relation to main topic of the conference, titled simply "Poverty and Peacemaking," which was held 19-20 September 2014 at Princeton University.

Mr. Perell focused on three themes: the special role youth can play in advancing peace and ending poverty, the necessity of learning to read reality as a skill set for young people, and the degree to which traditional approaches to peace and poverty often create false dichotomies.

“Too often we, as humanity -- certainly not just youth -- have a challenge in ensuring our rhetoric reflects what we actually believe,” said Mr. Perell. “We may work for the betterment of the world in one area, but return to old habits and patterns of behavior in another segment of our lives which is not consistent with the values we claim to hold. While this is a struggle for all of us, it is especially pertinent when we are working with youth.”

With respect to education, Mr. Perell said that “one dimension we all need to work on is understanding reality. The basic skills -- reading, writing, math, etc. -- are, of course, vital. But so is the ability to understand the media with a discerning eye, to recognize the difference between fact and theory, to really push back and be critical of what we are learning.

“This must occur in such a way that we aren't encouraging civil unrest, but in a way where we can constructively change the world in which we live,” he added, noting that many of the world’s great revolutions were begun by young people.

“This is important to realize because listening to and learning from the youth is not just good for them, but it is important for all society,” said Mr. Perell.

The event was sponsored by the Community of Sant' Egidio and the Office of Religious Life at Princeton University. Co-sponsors included the Mamdouha S. Bobst Center for Peace and Justice, the Pace Center for Civic Engagement, the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS), and the Center for Migration and Development at Princeton University.

Other registered participants included Katherine Marshall of the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University, Yousef Abdallah of Islamic Relief USA, Kenjitsu Nakagaki of the Buddhist Council of New York, and Adam Taylor of the World Bank.