I just returned from four exciting days in Warsaw with young change-makers from American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) programs in Zimbabwe, Burundi, Indonesia, Cambodia, Israel, Palestine and six cities from across the U.S. Nineteen youth and their mentors were part of AFSC's delegation to this year’s World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates--and what an outstanding contribution they made to the gathering!

One afternoon, participants from AFSC’s programs in Seattle, Baltimore, and Indonesia led a workshop on grassroots organizing and advocacy around issues of diversity and inclusion.

Emilda Rizky and Charly Yudha, youth from Indonesia, presented alongside AFSC’s country representative Jiway Tung, sharing how they are working to protect the rights of LGBT communities by celebrating and reinterpreting traditional Indonesian culture. Marcel Purnell and Dustin Washington spoke about their experiences with Youth Undoing Institutional Racism through AFSC’s community justice program in Seattle. And Wahid Shakur and Dominque Stevenson, representing Friend of a Friend—AFSC’s prison mentoring program in Maryland—talked about building a movement of love in and outside prison walls.

The youth delegates were inspired, not only by the chance to meet their personal heroes such as Muhammad Yunus, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, and Mairead Corrigan Maguire, but also by the chance to share lessons and make connections with 180 young people from all around the world.  In spending time with each other, they found common threads in their journeys to make a difference in their communities and speak truth to power.

After returning home to Baltimore, Wahid reflected that meeting young people working for peace and justice around the world had radically altered his perspective:

“When I think about what needs to be changed in the world I don’t just look at it through the windows of my experience, but I look at it through what would affect my friends fighting for change all over the world.”

The AFSC youth who gathered in Warsaw came from many different cultures, religions, and circumstances but they share a deep commitment to bringing peace and justice to their communities. Being part of the delegation to the World Summit, getting to know each other over those four days has been a life-changing experience. Seeing themselves as part of a global network of young peacemakers has expanded their sense of what is possible. Now AFSC's job is to keep them connected and inspired!

In Peace,