Freedom of Religion or Belief Youth Exchange; the Inception

The Freedom of Religion or Belief Exchange (FoRB) brought together youths from Netherlands, Indonesia and from the host Country Kenya. FoRB is an initiative under the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya (IRCK), Kenya Community Support Centre (KECOSCE) in partnership with Mensen met een Missie. IRCK works with religious leaders, local, youth and women networks to deepen interfaith dialogue and collaboration among its members for a common endeavor to mobilize the unique moral and social resources of religious people and address shared concerns. KECOSCE seeks to promote peaceful co-existence, good governance and sustainable social economic development with special emphasis on women, youth, marginalized communities, employees with disabilities and girls.

This exchange brought youth from Indonesia from the GUSDURian Network which focuses its strategies on empowering grassroots people, strengthening civil society and the Netherlands, Stichting Jeugdwerk which develops talent and competencies of youths so that they can fully participate in Dutch society.

IRCK and KECOSCE are greatly involved in activities that encourage interfaith dialogues and work on preventing violent extremism. IRCK works with religious leaders, interfaith networks across the country and seeks to empower youth and women roles in the country and KECOSCE works with the county, national and regional bodies, local administrative authorities and other key stakeholders. As part of realizing these objective one of the approaches is to hold trainings and workshops for the community where faith communities, learn each other’s beliefs and practices as a way of promoting interfaith tolerance and peaceful co-existence.

The youth is the biggest population in Kenya therefore having them in the exchange will ensure that interfaith, tolerance and peace cascade to the rest of the community.

The youth is the biggest population in Kenya therefore having them in the exchange will ensure that interfaith, tolerance and peace cascade to the rest of the community. The youth exchange will play a key role in demystifying perceptions on other religions and cultures by youths from different faiths thus ensuring interfaith tolerance.

“An initiative to connect with people, exchange experiences and learn from best practices in countering radicalization, violent extremism and hate speech at a local level. For youth can be susceptible to such issues, but are also part of the solution!” Rick van der Woud, Director of Mensen met een Missie on the youth exchange.

The youths visited police stations in Kwale and Nairobi in order to understand community policing and how the police handle different situations that involve intolerance and extremist. They visited the County Commissioners office and the SHIA community for interfaith dialogue.

When youths come together to exchange ideas, experiences and beliefs from their different faiths, religion and culture there is acceptance and tolerance. The exchange saw the youths share and implement their experiences in their countries. Through the 5 day exchange visit the youths were partnered, this enabled them to visit their hosts’ homes, experience their culture and a day in their life and at the same time they were able to engage with each other, ask questions and clarifications of things that they didn’t understand and generally make the experience more personal– this was to be shared among their networks through podcasts, stories and articles.

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