Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, Cynthia Forde; Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, Neil Rowe, representatives of various faiths and school children march along the streets of Bridgetown today to promote peace and tolerance. (A.Husbands/BGIS)

Today’s ‘Journey in Faiths’ rally encouraged students from primary, secondary and tertiary institutions to be peace ambassadors wherever they go.

The peace march and rally, which signaled the start of the Abrahamic Faiths Conference, sawschoolchildren and young people walking from the Islamic Mosque on Sobers Lane to the Jewish Synagogue on Synagogue Lane, then to the St. Michael’s Cathedral on St. Michael’s Row, and concluding at Queen’s Park.

Speaking at the conclusion in the Queen’s Park Steel Shed, Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, Cynthia Forde, noted that today’s journey of faith was a historic experience, as it gave a “rare insight into the faiths that coexist here in Barbados.  And, we did not dwell on those things that make us different, but focused on those things that unite us beyond our differences, and make us one.”

Minister Forde pinpointed that young people witness negative behaviours such as bullying, fighting and discrimination from within their communities and on television, which then permeate schools and other institutions.

“Let us be strong, bold and united as one, as we work to stomp out these scourges…for we are the flowers of God’s garden, brown, white, black etc., lovely in differences and varied in loveliness,” Ms. Forde stated.

The Minister of People Empowerment stressed that the role of spiritual leaders is necessary in the attainment and preservation of peace; and the ultimate purpose of any religion should be the pursuit of peace and happiness among people.

Also making presentations at the conclusion of the rally, was Ras Iral, on behalf of the Rastafarian community, and three young persons representing their individual faiths.  Ras Iral urged the religions within Barbados to have more inter-faith discussions and reasoning.

Meanwhile, Khaled Kothdiwala – Muslim representative, Tyuh Manning – Jewish representative and Zerayaicob Yaicob – Christian representative, together presented a communiqué in which they stated that in a world of such uncertainty, young people need hope.

They declared that “we are tied; we are bonded and we are one people with a common goal of maintaining our social peace, harmony and well-being”.

The three representatives were optimistic that the upcoming conference would be a beacon of hope in an uncertain time, and would be the blueprint for peace, unity and harmony for generations to come.

During the march, a bookmark from the Ministry of Education’s Anti-Violence Campaign was distributed, bearing pledges such as: By my actions, I will show tolerance for other students who are different from me; By my actions, I choose to make my school a kinder, happier and peaceful place for all; and I pledge to get help when I see mean behaviours.

The Abrahamic Faiths Conference, under the theme Peace in a World of Conflict – Building on a Common Heritage, will be held at the Codrington College in St. John, from tomorrow, Tuesday, June 18, until Wednesday, June 19. 

It will bring together members of the Christian, Islamic and Jewish communities, along with representatives of the Rastafarian faith.  It is being held in partnership with the Ministry of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs.

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