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Every day we hear about acts of religious intolerance, examples of anything from an anti-Semitic remark thrown out in the hallway to discrimination to physical bullying due to someone’s difference in religion. None of this is right or justified in anyway, and thankfully people are taking action against such intolerance. On March 15th, high school students from all across Rochester will be meeting at Nazareth College for a Global Citizenship Conference to promote intercultural tolerance and the ideals of a pluralistic society.
This program was started by high school youth, and is sponsored by Nazareth College’s Center for Interfaith Studies and Dialogue. It is open to all Rochester schools, and program coordinators are hoping to attract around 300 students. The conference will be set up in the style of a field trip, with workshops for students to attend and speakers presenting on each matter. The workshops emphasize topics such as recognizing and responding to intolerance, conflict resolution, nonviolence and peacemaking, and increasing knowledge of various religions.
The Global Citizenship Conference is directly linked to Brighton High School’s Interfaith Club, which will be meeting regularly throughout the course of the year. Seniors Fatima Bawany and Mark Khazanov are among the primary youth leaders for the event, meaning they sit with the board for the conference and help to plan events and supply ideas. In addition to the area-wide conference they plan to incorporate small-scale dialogues and immersion activities throughout the year.
There are high hopes for the organization, as they try to get youth representatives from each school involved to increase participation. The goal of the conference is to promote understanding and acceptance, as well as increase awareness of the diversity between different belief systems. “We hope to get the word out about interfaith dialogue,” says Khazanov. The event hopes to teach participating students healthy ways of responding to religious conflict as well as guidelines and etiquette for acting respectably in a pluralistic society. Bawany adds, “We want to get people talking about it, because a lot of the time kids aren’t willing to talk about their beliefs.” Increased knowledge in turn can lead to higher levels of tolerance as stereotypes are dispelled and understanding is gained.
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