News Release

Over 100 Participants from Different Faiths Gather for 6th Interfaith Youth Peace Camp

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From the eyes of onlookers, the scene may look like a group of young adults playing games, making art and just having fun. However, for the more than 100 participants aged 18 years old and above, including a team of volunteer organizers and leaders, their participation in the Interfaith Youth Peace Camp is for a bigger purpose: To foster understanding, appreciation and respect for each individual’s faith, develop commonalities despite diversity, and establish rapport for peace-building and future partnerships.

President Erwin Brilliantes, a member of the Antipolo Stake (Diocese) Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, kicked off the activity by welcoming the participants at the Cultural Hall of the Aurora Chapel with a brief message.

“In most cases, we need to take a step to the truth. We need to defend it, especially when our views or opinions are contrary with the world,” President Brilliantes said after he shared a story that teaches about truth.

“May we be sincere in the knowledge and truth, in our thoughts and desires, as we strive to make a better world for our children and for every one of us. May we be forgiving to those who have wronged us and free our hearts of anger and live happy lives.”

Following his remarks were a series of activities that centered around the 2019 WIHW theme, which is Celebrating Truth, Sincerity and Forgiveness.

QKirt Ogaya, a Latter-day Saint and first-time participant, shared what he has learned from the first round of activities. “I learned that we need to be humble because when we are humble, we make friends,” he said in Tagalog.

Like QKirt, the young participants were able to meet and make new friends with those of other faiths. 

Moreover, they were also able to gain knowledge and understand the basic tenets of each religion through the Presentation of Faith segment presented by different youth representatives. This helped everyone learn about the basic of beliefs of Buddhists, Muslims, Latter-day Saints, Roman Catholics, Aglipayans and Hindus. 

Salma Arafol, a Muslim youth from the Nur Factory, shared what she felt by attending the event. "Being here is really a great thing because I experienced lots of things, [like] being with other religions, interacting with them, and being with them so openly."

"Despite our differences and culture, in our traditions and in our beliefs, and despite the differences in our religion, we can still be united as one family, as human beings. We can celebrate our common values like truth, sincerity and forgiveness," added Mark Mercene, a Roman Catholic youth from the Our Lady of Fatima Parish.

In a special message by Reverend Father Carlos Reyes, Minister at the Ministry of Ecumenical and Interfaith Affairs of the Archdiocese of Manila and Parish Priest of Our Lady of Fatima Parish, he encouraged the youth to remain optimistic and to be a beacon of light despite conflicts and diversity.

“While there are shadows,” Father Reyes said in reference to the recent bombing in Jolo. “There are also many lights. In fact, the lights are represented by our participation in this peace camp. So let’s not allow certain acts of violence dampen our hope. As I’ve said, there’s peace, sincerity, forgiveness…”

The trek down to Camp Tipolo Adventureland, located in Antipolo City, did not stop the participants from giving their best for their teams during the second round of the peace camp. The team-building activities that the facilitators prepared for the youth were to encourage teamwork, improve communication, develop trust and respect, and to bond with their team members in a fun way. 

At the conclusion of the day's event, Reverend Father Richard James M. Babao, Assistant Minister at Ministry for Ecumenical and Interfaith Affairs of the Archdiocese of Manila and Parish Priest of the Ina ng Laging Saklolo Parish, encouraged everyone in the room to be kind and respectful with each other. 

"I think, my dear brothers and sisters, it is important to realize [that] regardless of what our faith tradition is, we respect and we love each other as if we are one family," he said in his closing remarks. 

He then invited the young group to cherish the experience they recently had, and the brotherhood and sisterhood they have cultivated.

To cap off the fun-filled event, groups received special awards and prizes for a job well done. The organizations that participated in the peace camp included Nur Factory, Fo Guang Shan Mabuhay Temple, Peacemakers’ Circle, Aglipay, Ina ng Laging Saklolo Parish, Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Focolare Movement, Silpis Quiapo Interfaith Council, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The peace camp, sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is now on its 6th year and is part of the line-up of activities for the World Interfaith Harmony Week with Unharmony Partners Manila. 

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