Thursday 12th August 2021 is the International Youth Day. It is a significant day in which we celebrate our youth. This year’s theme, “Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health,” highlights the fundamental need to collectively protect and rebuild our planet by promoting sustainable solutions for biodiversity. Our earth faces real danger. It has already been harmed by our activities.
The threat by non-biodegradable waste coupled with other challenges such as healthcare and climate change need to be directly addressed in order to achieve a healthy planet.
Now more than ever, the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the need to involve youth in decision-making roles. Young people are developing and introducing new ideas to sustainable change—ideas that can benefit humanity and improve our future. They have been in the frontlines in addressing challenges that hinder food security.
Rev. Takeyasu Miyamoto, GNRC Inaugurator committed that, “… we shall devote ourselves to bringing about, through prayer and practice, this global, “silent spiritual revolution” for the future of children,” in his message to the UN General Assembly Special Session on Children, New York, USA, in 2002.
The results of youth engagement can already be seen and felt in other sectors of development. Through the Regional Peace Program championed by Arigatou International’s End Child Poverty and the GNRC, we have witnessed youth from East and Horn of Africa, empowered on interfaith peace-building approaches to prevent violent extremism and transform conflicts in which mostly young people are involved.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, GNRC Network through the help of faith communities, is mentoring youth and children to protect them from joining gangs and participating in gang violence. Young people in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala have also been active in addressing the challenges of children on the move.
GNRC youth networks in South Africa, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Uganda and Kenya have been integral in addressing climate change. They are advocating for an end to human-induced global warming that has resulted in large-scale shifts in weather patterns. Throughout these countries, youth have been promoting afforestation and reforestation.
During this year’s International Youth Day let us continue nurturing youth’ skills; let us educate and engage them, and give them the conducive environment for developing modern solutions to transform our food systems. Our global effort will not be achieved without the meaningful participation of young people.
Mustafa Y. Ali, PhD
Secretary General, Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC), and
Director, Arigatou International – Nairobi.