FINAL DOCUMENT – INTERNATIONAL CAMP 2018

Generations are walking in a constantly changing world. Technological progress has brought around lots of new opportunities and challenges; however, we should be specially educated to be able to make the right choice and have instruments to navigate information glut in the best way.

We, more than a hundred young people coming from all over the world, feel the urge to share a message of hope and commitment in building a future of friendship and peace among mankind. We come from Angola, Belarus, Camerun, Democratic Republic of v Congo, Italy, Israel, Lebanon, Mali, Palestinian Territories, Perù, Russia. During these days we looking into the future, as scary as it might seem, which is what we are asked to think about, build and share. Thinking and realizing the future entails the acknowledgment of our roots, the awareness of the current challenges and a prophetic sight into the world, that is able to grasp the signs of time and announce a new spring.

In the last decades, people from all over the world have experienced an unprecedented wave of disruptive social as well as technological changes that have widened the gap between generations, making personal and economic self-realization more complex for youngsters. Once of the consequences of such a change is that generations nowadays are more and more challenged in being able to communicate with each other in a time of growing incommunicability.  We live in a world where the array of available possibilities is getting larger and larger, so that the life experiences of youngsters tend to be difficult to understand for the elder people and vice versa. Even though, on the one hand, this allows individuals to define themselves in a more tailored way; on the other hand, the sense of isolation and loneliness grows. Indeed, the immediacy of modern life styles has widened the generation gap and, at the same time, cast shades on the role of the future ones.

Generations, and the various identity they are composed of, are meant to link the past to the future, nonetheless, if the above link between is questioned by immediacy, uncertainty and lack of trust, the ways for defining our identities are questioned as well. In this narrative, that we firmly refuse, identity becomes a dividing concept, meant to exclude whoever is different, whoever does not belong to the same reality. In such a context, the definition of individual and collective identities is not anymore a way to build bridges with the past, made of different and peculiar roots, and the future, where different roots are shared to achieve common goals. Identity becomes a monolithic idea that lives only in the past and is scared by the future. We, the young generation, shall not be scared or tempted by this narrative of hatred; on the contrary, we urge people to respond with a counter narrative, made of responsibility and vision: responsibility for being able to understand and take care of the complex problem of modern time in our families and communities, as well as with our friends and neighbours and vision for thinking of suitable solutions for the future.

In order to do so, we are convinced that personal engagement and activism represent a necessary and crucial cornerstone. Indeed, all of our choices are, in the end, political activism, ranging from what we buy for grocery, through the type of professional path we decide to follow, to the way we decide to educate future generations. Nonetheless, we are aware that this cannot be enough and to address the current challenges, long-term oriented collective actions are crucial. We know that the time for complaints and self-loathing has to come to an end. Therefore, we are asked to be responsible for the future, setting the necessary goal to reach and acting to achieve it. Accordingly, conflict within and between generations cannot be approached as a factor of division any longer. On the contrary, it represents opportunities for new solutions that are not based on unilateral decisions but on shared ones. This will be possible only overturning the logic of mere contraposition of power in decision-making processes, so that decisions be grounded on listening and understanding.

This represents the stepping stone to forge shared solutions that take into consideration the complex nexus of generations and relationships within them. Such a process is not plain sailing neither straightforward, as it infers the effort of different components of our society which are asked to find shared solution through dialogue. This, sometimes, necessarily means being ready to give something up, to link the past with the future renouncing to our short-term welfare for achieving something bigger in the long run. Even though this line of reasoning might seem mainly theoretical, we are convinced that many of the current challenges can only be addressed through intergenerational dialogue and responsibility. The easiest example to make is environmental policies, which entail the idea of future that we want to pass on to the coming generations. In the same vein, immigration waves, educational policies, social security reforms, innovative processes, etc. cannot be blindly handled only by looking at electoral consensus and short term results. On the contrary, they ought to be addressed by looking at the future and considering that the choices we make today will shape our communities for the decades to come. Such a long term orientation can only be pursued as long as trust and hope permeate our society.

 

Hope, specifically, shall be the cornerstone on which to build the future. Indeed, hope presupposes that we are part of something bigger, that the world did not start and will not come to an end with us. It has been said that we live in an era where faith is in crisis and spiritual and religious dimensions will most probably be more and more neglected. We, young people, during these days in the Camp experienced a spiritual and religious life style that enriched us both individually and as a community, especially thanks to the dialogue between different traditions and religions.

The message of hope that Abrahamic religions and traditions spread is getting more and more crucial in the modern era. Therefore, we, young people belonging to different religions and traditions, commit ourselves to testify the message of peace and hope inherent to our faith, fighting the narrative according to which religions are a means of violence and separation. On the contrary, religions are and always shall be a means of meeting and dialogue, of facing together the challenges ahead. It conjures up the image of Isaac and Ismael who despite their separation, met each other in Mamre remembering their father Abraham (cf. Gen. 25, 9)

In fact, Abrahamic religions represent the perfect paradigm of intergenerational dialogue and relationship: rooted in the past and always looking at the future. So that, at the beginning, was said: “The man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife” (Gen, 2,18). The openness to the future, the awareness of being part of something bigger than us, the faith in God and future generations are crucial for all of us, young believers. If we lose our hopeful sight into the future, we are exposed to the risk of extremisms that use religion to shield themselves from the future: “therefore, every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old” (Mt. 13, 52). Hope also means being open to the mystery, to something we do not and cannot understand. As the Quran teaches us, once Ismael meets Abraham after a long period of time, Ismael is respectful and devoted to his father and is open to Abraham’s request, even though he cannot fully understand it at first: “And when he reached with him [the age of] exertion, he said, ‘O my son, indeed I have seen in a dream that I [must] sacrifice you, so see what you think.’ He said, ‘O my father, do as you are commanded. You will find me, if Allah wills, of the steadfast.’ (Quran, 37 102). Religions, with their message of hope, are made of future and roots, tradition and prophecy, differences and reconciliation in one father Abraham. We, young generations, are asked to carefully spread the seeds of hope, to patiently cultivate them and let future generations harvest their fruits.

 

We, young people, have been part of an experience where bridges are preferred to walls, where memory meets with a vision of a peaceful future and where hope is the mirror image of our new friends and neighbours. We feel lucky and grateful for the gift we have made one another and we commit ourselves to safeguard, share and foster the “La Vela Spirit” in our families, with our friends and communities, in our countries of origin, so to make our peaceful and hopeful future happen.

FINAL DOCUMENT – INTERNATIONAL CAMP 2017

In the last years the world has been changing a great deal, and the way we communicate with each other, both for what concerns contents and means, has been shaken upside down. We young people from International Camp are walking together on a path towards understanding the causes and perspectives of such a radical evolution of our relationships and communities.

The new technological tools gave us a whole new power in collecting and sharing information, communicating with each other, alongside other opportunities. Nevertheless, in order to make the best out of them, we need to be aware of and face the risks they entail. Such a process is still going on, hence there are many challenges and the importance of good questions is vital, since these issues are not set on stone. Thus, we urge to avoid any kind of judgment, while we find more fruitful to shed some light and give a new perspective on these challenges.

 

One of the most pervasive changes is represented by social media, which our attention was focused on the most during the Camp. Many people risk becoming objects instead of subjects of social media. Their identity is increasingly shaped by social media contents and by their networks, while the dimension of communicating themselves and their perspective to others is losing its role and importance. In fact, in the social media environment, where being seen means to exist, virtual identities often represent masks of whom we are asked to be.

On the other hand, in order to be active subjects – even in this new environment – we have to be faithful to ourselves and to our values. This is the only way we can really communicate something authentic, generating as a result authentic relationships as well. Moreover, it is crucial to acknowledge that our identity is always evolving and being defined by our social and cultural background, so that being aware of the differences among each other represents a cornerstone for communication.

Given that social networks are a virtual meeting place, and they act as a filter between virtual and real life, they cannot be neutral communication tools. They can have a strong impact and influence on our perspective, and it is blatant that we need to be conscious of the differences between those two worlds. For instance, in face-to-face relationships the better part of what is said stands from non-verbal communication, which is absent from behind a screen. Hence, weighting the words we use is fundamental, as they represent the main communicative channel we can use on social networks.

What has been said so far makes clear that we cannot easily detach our real life from our virtual one. Thus, education to the social media world represents the biggest challenge in this respect. There is not a standardized way of dealing with said media, since it depends on our personalities and backgrounds, but we can set some guidelines in order to help us. Why do I need to share this? Am I just looking for attention or appreciation? Is the information I’m sharing needed? Is it true?

In this respect, educting to the richness of diversities is crucial, in order to avoid hatred and violence towards those who have different opinions and backgrounds. Our communities are getting more and more diverse, so dialogue is essential if we want to grow together.

 

Social media have also an impact on citizenship and democratic dynamics. They amplify news, opinions and reactions to events on a global level. Instantaneous emotions are in the foreground and they deeply affect the understanding of what happens in the society, while reasoning and an in-depth analysis are often left in the background.

This example highlights the polarization of society: each of us can choose who to follow, what to share and where to gather information from, allowing us to reinforce our own beliefs. If used this way, social media become shields, and not sharing instruments.

Information is made also by peers sharing content, while the role of usual gatekeepers results being diminished. As a consequence, their authoritativeness is endangered, as is the ability to detect what is true and what is not. It is not by chance that the relevance of fake news in social dynamics is skyrocketing and many people are not able or not even interested in dealing with that.

A correlated issue is represented by the lack of pluralism that social media might generate. In fact, even though theoretically social networks increase the number of available sources, we are less exposed to a plurality of opinions. This enhances divisions and misunderstandings within communities at every level (families, municipalities, nations, global community).

Therefore, we urge to stress the role of personal responsibility of what happens in social media: since each of us is becoming a gatekeeper of the quality of the information and democracy, we have to bear the consequences of our virtual actions as we do with “real” ones. This allows to safeguard the dimension of memory and perspective, which is very endangered by a world where the only thing that matters is the present moment, while what happened yesterday is already forgotten and what is going to happen tomorrow neglected.

 

In recovering and safeguarding those dimensions, religious and spiritual traditions have a great deal of importance.

Our religious and spiritual dimension requires time and listening so that we are able to see our future as a part of our path and not as a mere and immediate reaction to what is happening, grasping the streams of the event in a harmonious manner. Both in the Biblical and Quranic traditions, God invites His people to listen and read: “Shema Israel!” (see, Deuteronomy 6, 4-7 and Quran 112); “Iqraa’!” (see Quran 96:1).

Nowadays, we are dealing with something different: new media tend to spread words of hatred through religions, giving ground to fundamentalists. At the end of the day, the latter are individuals who speaking – or screaming – the most about God, at the very same time, are those who speak the least with God, employing religions as a means for violent communication and actions.

They testify a religion devoid of God, without faith. But God does not scream; as a wise man once said: “God is so humble that He only speaks when everyone else is silent”. For this reason, we try and commit ourselves to be silent in order to recognize the whisper of God in the wind, as prophet Elias experienced in the Oreb (1 Kings 19, 12-13).

We, young people participating in the International Camp at “La Vela” Village, acknowledge our duty to communicate what we experienced about religions and faith. They are not meant for war and conflicts but for loving people next and far from you: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again” (Isaiah 2, 4).

We, adepts to Abrahamic religions, got the chance to meet each other, we discovered different approaches to faith, and we also shared similar hopes, fears, fragilities and difficulties. We understood and experienced that the only meaningful way of communicating our religion implies to be transparent and consistent testimonies of our faith.

 

This is the understanding, the commitment and the message of hope that we, people gathered from different countries, want to spread in here and to the rest of the world. We are over 100 young people with different religious backgrounds, coming from Albania, Angola, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Germany, Israel, Italy, Morocco, Palestine, Peru, Romania, Russia, Yemen.

With this document we commit ourselves to bring into the world the way of communicating and dialoguing we lived and experienced at “La Vela” Village, in order to build all together a path of peace, based on a common ground of listening and respect; a community of men and women of good will in which words are never used as weapons to hurt but as an outstretched hand ready for binding together our diversities; a human family in which we are able to recognize ourselves as brothers and sisters.

INTERNATIONAL CAMP 2015

#CITYINGTHEWORLD

LINK CITIES UNITE THE WORLD

Cities are the bricks of our civilization. Both for our everyday life and the historical genesis of mankind the cities’ dimension has always been an issue of paramount importance. On the current stage of our development this topic is becoming even more significant. We young people from Albania, Angola, Brazil, Belarus, Congo Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, France, Israel, Italia, Morocco, Nigeria, Palestine, Russia, Syria, Yemen gathered in «La Vela» Village to discuss the cities’ role and place in the contemporary society. In a friendly, serene and agreeable atmosphere with a respectful attitude and an open-minded approach we not only shared our thoughts and experiences regarding the above theme but in fact we also lived a multinational, -cultural, and –religious city at our International Camp. Historically, many philosophers questioned the concept of an ideal city and whether it is possible to make it real. According to us, the only possible way to reach this goal is to create cities that are man-sized. Cities can be seen as a book made of symbols and signs, with different and profound meanings; man-sized city implies that citizens are able to read this book and provide it with an added value. Cities are not just made of stones, but mainly embodied by people. Therefore, keeping the city alive infers an active participation in all the processes which constitute the city existence. On the other hand, cities are to provide their inhabitants with the opportunity to satisfy their predominant needs. Since houses are the basis for the creation of the very first communities and relationships between citizens, cities must guarantee a place for everyone. At the same time, cities are responsible for the welfare of people, which cannot but encompass healthcare effectuated by hospitals. Squares, as meeting points, permit to develop and broaden these links between people, and make them work for the benefit of the society. Political and administrative institutions are designed to give shape to this activity and to bring it forward through representative and official channels. However, in order to be an active citizen, you need to be educated, which in its turn justifies the functioning of schools and universities. Another fundamental element is being aware of your identity, rooted in historical and cultural sites of the city. Only the knowledge of our past allows us to look into the future and to find a balance between tradition and innovation. Religion and faith as an integral part of the same identity find expression in worship places, where one can sense the spirit of the city. Cities are not self-referential, because they find complete realization only if they create bonds with their peers. Communication is stronger than stones or monuments. In the current geo-political situation, which is characterized by an on-going confrontation between actors both on global and local level, interaction between cities can be regarded as an important tool to achieve peace. To quote Professor La Pira, «Reigns pass, cities remain» [Giorgio La Pira, Leningrad, 1970]. In this context, it is worth mentioning that sometimes «city diplomacy» can be efficient in situations when ordinary diplomacy tends to fail. That is why such tools as the institute of twin cities, international mayors’ conferences, programs of intercity student exchange, as well as similar means, have a lot of potential in terms of second-track diplomacy and soft power: nevertheless, these instruments are really effective only if there’s an actual participation of citizens, and they do not remain just a formal connection between institutions. Cities’ life has to reflect all aspects of their inhabitants’ identity: they have to take care of the citizens’ personal dimension through an education that makes them aware of their active role in city life; they have to create the premises and the appropriate social environment for a mutually beneficial cooperation and dialogue; last but not least, they should not be considered only as a ground for human relations, but also as a convergence point of the multiform experiences of spiritual and religious research. They should be reprojected considering the human path to God: therefore, cities have to welcome, integrate, include different forms of faith and religions in line with the principle of multinationals, -cultural and –religious concordia. We want to live in a reality where cities are not ruled by religions, but where religions are respected and considered as an integrative part of city and citizens life. We cannot deny that believers citizens bring a different perspective to the multifaceted society we live in, given their perception of the city as an expression of a divine scheme, and not just a place built by men for men. We do believe that cities still have the potential of being the protagonists in the world scenario, but only by embracing some core aspects of their essential and innate nature: they should be able to serve as bridges between themselves and between the persons inhabiting them. Cities should be dynamic and resilient realities, able to maintain their own identity while discussing with and welcoming different traditions, cultures and religions. As Jane Jacobs said, «Dull, inert cities, it is true, do contain the seeds of their own destruction and little else. But lively, diverse, intense cities contain the seeds of their own regeneration, with energy enough to carry over for problems and needs outside themselves.» [Jane Jacobs, 1961]. As young people, we hereby would like to stress that our first commitment in a city is to feel involved and responsible for our cities’ needs and problems. First of all, it’s fundamental to perceive the place we live in as the home we should care about: if we think of a city as a mosaic, every single person has the duty to give a unique and an irreplaceable contribution thereto. What we just lived here in «La Vela» Village give us the opportunity to concretely implement our experience, testifying and reproducing in our cities experiences of «living together» with people of different cultures and religions, as seeds of a new process of integration, friendship and peace among persons, cities and nations.

Walking the Earth, Taking Care of the Common Home

Earth is our common home. During the International Camp we, young people from all over the world, have experienced what walking on the same earth means. We come from Angola, Bolivia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Israel, Italy, Morocco, Palestine, Republic of the Congo, Russia, Ukraine and after having passed ten days in “La Vela village” we realized that if we want to go fast we should go alone, but if we want to go far we should go together.

Living the International Camp and sharing our thoughts we became aware of the fact that all the human dimensions, personal, political and spiritual ones are tightly linked to one another. Hence, the only relevant approach to tackle environmental issues is integral and systematic thinking. The only possibility to leave this world a better place than it was when we entered consists in being creative and finding suitable solutions on the basis of mutual learning and education. On this path the very first step consists in the acknowledgment of the beauty of nature around us, since in line with Pino Arpioni’s educational methodology, the beauty of nature unleashes the beauty and harmony of men and women. In fact, living surrounded by this beauty makes us wonder about our role and position in the large book of history and thus provides the basis for intergenerational responsibility. As a matter of fact, very often we remain ignorant of the direct consequences of our actions on the environment, but we well understand the ethical and moral need to take care of it. Therefore, it is crucial to adopt a far-seeing approach in educating ourselves and the future generations of necessary steps we need to enhance our overall awareness and sensitivity. It also implies that we are part of something bigger and more important than us, and we cannot simply dominate it and take it for granted. On the contrary, we should strive for a balanced relationship between ourselves and the environment. This requires both personal and collective responsibility along with taking care of what we have been gifted with.

Nowadays, given the complicated economic, social, cultural and geopolitical juncture, the need to find or restore such a balance appears to be far stronger than before. A concrete example is the vanity of so-called consumption models of development and the “throw-away society”: consuming much more than we need and not paying attention to social impact of our consumption patterns and other consequences.

In order to avoid the risk of becoming such a society on a global scale, which despite the formal progress would indeed mean a race to the bottom, we shall focus on our collective responsibility. As Giorgio La Pira said, everyone of us has a “social vocation”, which we have to fulfil collectively. Thus, there is no distinction between personal, local and global commitment, but they actually complement each other. Therefore, facing climate changes, the mankind needs a comprehensive and consistent approach: international agreements tend not to work without local systems for recycling and vice versa. Moreover, the gap between these two levels can be filled with strong and proper institutions involving all the relevant actors and key stakeholders. All of them shall be flexible, innovative and apply an out-of-the-box way of thinking. The set of available tools is particularly extensive: they range from communicating the scientific underpinning to general public to “green” marketing, sustainable consumption, limiting the use of plastic, investment in research and development along with transnational cooperation. The use of these instruments and the implementation of respective policies represent the cornerstones for proposing a new workable economic approach, where welfare will not be measured by market prices but by a real ecological value of goods and services.

As representatives of the three Abrahamic religions we refer to our common spiritual father who was chosen by God for the Alliance. Abraham was able to face the truth without being slave of any idols. We, following his example, when dealing with environmental issues, shall not be led astray by petty interests and egoistical attitude. We can be guided in this endeavour by our respective religions. Although, it has not been long since the religions made their stance in the contemporary ecological debate, we should not forget that taking care of the creation can be traced back to the roots of all the three religions. In fact, we can see that all the Abrahamic religions have always stressed the attention on the role of man as a guardian of nature. This common moral basis can allow us to deepen the cooperation between the three religions. We, the young generation, supported by our faith, spiritual strength and inspired by our experience at the “La Vela Village”, commit ourselves to follow this path, destroy the modern idols, and make our world a place of dialogue, tolerance, peace and freedom.