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The 5th Interfaith Youth Forum on Environment & Peace


The 5th Interfaith Youth Forum on Environment and Peace was held successfully from 28th to 29th September 2017 at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa under the theme “Connecting the Dots between Human Rights, Climate Change and Sustainable Development Goals.”

The forum’s theme sought to reflect our determined resolution to blend the environment and peace as the main unifying factors to bring together all Kenyan youths from all walks of life. Several dignitaries from different religious affiliations such as Islam, Hare Krishna, Anglican, and Catholic Church were all in attendance to offer their religions’ viewpoints and inspiration as far as environment and peace are concerned. 

Various activities were undertaken at the forum such as keynote speeches from different speakers, live and entertaining concerts by choir bands (CUEA Band, YOUNIB Ecumenical Choir, and Vijana Bila Ukabila), tree planting, and a panel discussion which also involved a question and answer session with the participants. The panel discussion was moderated by Ms. Maryene Warah from the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya. Members of panel discussion were Ms. Rattan K. Shanna from United Religions Initiative, Damaris Mungai from the UN Environment, Sr. Mary Frances Wangari from the JPICFA, Fr. Charles Odira from KENEA, Sr. Gladys Mititi from Capuchin TV, and Mr. Paul Mutuku from 350 Kenya.


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Partners were JPIC Franciscans Africa(JPICFA) Center for social justice and ethics of Catholic University of eastern Africa (CSJE), CUEA, 350.org, Mother Earth Network, Missionaries of Africa/AGEH, ARAN, Capuchin TV, Media 24,CJPC Ngong Youth, IRCK, Youth Network for Interreligious, Hare Krishna, EPJI-Paralegal, YOUNIB Africa, KINAE, Vijana Bila Ukabila.

During this year's forum, a special second-panel discussion was organized for youth especial high school students and this was an amazing session. The panelists were Other participants included students who represented three schools; Ms Rukiya Ahamed a form 2 student from Our Lady of Mercy Shauri Moyo Secondary School, Adams Mauris a form 4 student from St. Michael Secondary School, Anitha Chebichi from faculty of law at Catholic University of Eastern Africa and a youthful Pastor Julius Sensor . This panel had been special in a way they were able to break down the theme in a simple language, touching issues and talking of solutions. It is good to mention that Rukiya Ahamed took distinction during the 5th Interfaith Youth Forum, one indicator of our success.

JPICFA Sister Mary Wangare Sebastian, Director of Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation Franciscans Africa, shared the historical background of the forum. She referred to St Francis of Assisi who is the patron saint of Ecology. Him being a model of peace building, interfaith Dialogue, human rights and care for our common home /environment. He died at 45 years old, which means that whatever he achieved did so at his young age, for this reason, that our interfaith forum took a youth aspect. As the face of Interfaith Youth forum, she mentioned that partnership is very key in the history of the forum as a mandate. Sister Mary said that there is a cry by mother earth because we are destroying her. She warned us that if we don’t take action, nature will turn back to us and revenge. She, therefore, welcomed everybody to enjoy the forum.

Keynote Address

The forum’s guest speaker was Mr. Matthias Eder the interreligious dialogue advisor from the Missionaries the Missionaries of Africa, AGEH-CPS who gave a keynote address on the interfaith concept, highlighting the Catholic perspectives on the Inter-religious dialogue. In his speech, Mr. Eder talked about the ecclesiastical documents issued by the Second Vatican Council that distinguish four levels or aspects of interfaith dialogue. The first one is the level of everyday life in our common places and activities which is about getting to know, invite and involve each other which can help to reduce fears, ignorance, and prejudices on both sides. 

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The second is the level of partnership action demonstrated in pastoral care, environment and peace engagements which gets us all into working together for the good of the community. Mr. Eder also said the third is the level of religious and theological exchange which helps in finding similarities, differences, and contradictions between religious teachings and practices while the fourth is the level of spiritual dialogue which includes forms of multi-religious prayers and reciprocal visits to sacred places of worship.

Mr. Eder further emphasized that the Inter-religious dialogue partnership exists to address known barriers to dialogue and that dialogue can be the only vaccine against radical manipulations and wrong messages in order to gain world peace. He warned that if social, tribal, economic or social conflicts are mixed with religion, then peacebuilding will become much harder. Dialogue is a vaccine. It prevents simple answers, blame games, us versus them logic and demystifies the “other”, the unknown. Not knowing the other opens the door to misconceptions, extremism, manipulation and ultimately violence. Most conflicts are in their essence not about religion, because all religions are united by a message of peace and empathy. Therefore, dialogue as a vaccine against such manipulations and wrong messages has gained importance for world peace.

He also talked about the integrity of creation. By quoting Mohammed (PBUH), saying that if without good reason anyone kills a sparrow or a creature lesser than that even, the living creature will put his plaint to God on the day of judgment, saying: ”So and So killed me for no purpose”.

(Nasai, Hadith). At the end of the day, the role of faiths coming together is care for one another and to care for God’s creation.

Guest speaker

The forum was graced by Dr. Annah Yegon from Directorate of Ministry of Public Services Youth and Gender Affairs. She appreciated the idea of Interfaith and the theme of the forum. According to her, peace starts with you and me, and it also fosters the absence of conflict.

At school or any community, one has a duty to create an environment which makes others be peaceful if you become a troublemaker, it incites others also to resist by being also troublemakers. Youth have been engaged in a situation of violence, political manipulation but also others have a lack of participation in anything because of ignorance, lack of knowledge or information.

Leaders should not misuse young people, but support them to become better future leaders, actors of change. She later read the message from the Permanent Secretary. With the agenda 2030, the Kenyan Government is considering youth as a priority since it is clear that youth unemployment is higher. Our Excellency the President of the Republic of Kenya has made a call to empower youth globally starting by reconciliation, with no discrimination and Human rights promotion.


Dr. Annah reiterated the Kenyan government’s commitment to fighting unemployment through setting up initiatives such as UWEZO Fund, the National Youth Service, etc. She further said that youths are being prioritized in all government schemes and that they are training them to be peace ambassadors in their respective communities.

1st Panel Discussion

The first guest was formed by also important guest to the forum, and as experts, they contributed a lot in breaking down the theme of the forum.

Ms. Damaris Mungai from UN Environment

She appreciated the organizing team by coming up with such noble forum and important theme. Ms. Damaris mentioned that UNEP supports the initiatives of different faiths coming together and promote environment and peace, then she promised a further collaboration between UNEP and the interfaith program. She explained to the participants the meaning of each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and how are they connected to Human Rights and Climate Change. SDGs as a universal call for action; it is all about end poverty, protecting our planet and to ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

The 17 goals are:

  1. No poverty
  2. Zero hunger
  3. Good health and well-being
  4. Quality education
  5. Gender Equality
  6. Clean water and sanitation
  7. Affordable and clean energy
  8. Decent work and economy growth
  9. Industry, innovation, and infrastructure
  10. Reduced inequality
  11. Sustainable cities and communities
  12. Responsible consumption and production
  13. Climate Action
  14. Life below water
  15. Life on land
  16. Peace, justice and strong institutions
  17. Partnership for the goals

She encouraged the participants especially the young learners on the importance of living in parallel with the goals and the different ways each one of us can contribute to the SDGs especially using peace and environment initiatives like the 5th Interfaith Youth Forum.

Ms. Rattan K. Channa

From United Religious Initiative presented her contribution during the panel discussion by reading to the audience remarks sent by her Director. URI is an organization aiming to promote an interfaith cooperate, to create a culture of peace, justice, and healing.

It is formed by 218 member’s organizations from different religions and groups.

Regarding Interfaith, the role of youth is very important, therefore there is a need of having such a platform for them to learn how to address issues of peace and socio-economical issues.

Youth are very innovative we need to give them opportunities. It is good to do to others what we want to be done to us. Each and everybody of us should be peaceful because peace starts within you. Taking a practical action as M. Gandhi said: We need to be the change that we want”

Father Charles Odila

From KINAE touches the theme spiritually. As Kenya Initiative Network on Action for Environment, they believe that we have a common creator. God did not only created the earth but gave us a responsibility to protect it.

SDGs is a call to take care of God’ creature so that it serves us as we save it. This call comes also from Pope Francis with Laudato Si inviting people regarding the mess already done, to take action and save our mother earth.

There is a connection with Human Rights with the fact that we all have the right to benefit from this God’ creature.

Sr. Gladys Mititi

From Capuchin TV presented the role of media especially the Chapuchin TV. The TV plays an important role in SDGs. Through it, they do awareness by informing people. They do have educational programs on Human rights and they put some stories of human rights violation. They do also advocacy because Capuchin TV can be the voice of voiceless. Setting agenda, topic discussion, it put people to a right track and help them to change the mentality.


  • Thanks to our moderator Meryene Warah from Inter-Religious Council of Kenya, her engagement of participants was fruitful; elaborating deepened the theme of the forum.
  • Young people were able to ask mature questions to panelists like What are the measures to be taken when people keep cutting trees and other works of deforestation?
  • Trees have been business for youth and when they were forbidden to cut them, there is no job; how government can solve the issue of youth unemployment by also saving the environment? The issue of slums which are being demolished, what can be done to prevent them to not be demolished?
  • The Issue of youth being the target of crime what is the government doing?
  • As a success, principles of high schools request for a youth Dialogue to be conducted in their respective schools

Birthday Tree Planting

This campaign is about people celebrating the birthday by cutting the cake and planting trees as a new tradition. Mr. Steeven Kezamutima, the Youth Program Manager at JPICFA, who coordinates the campaign, mentioned how important it is to go beyond stories and theories to take action. Planting a tree or more with your friends on your birthday celebration is a good sign to thank God by giving back to him a gift of care for creation. The campaign was launched on 29th June 2018, many sessions of trees planting have taken place and it still going on.

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The Campaign is online and on the field. You can find it on Facebook as Birthday Tree Planting Campaign, you are requested to like the page, share with many friends, comment, and when you plant a tree on your birthday you take a photo and upload it on the same page in order to mobilize and sensitize online. Few young people had birthday among participant and they celebrated by planting trees with a message of taking care of them by watering them regularly.

Day 2

Key Note of Address

The second day was also an important day for participants focusing on environment and climate change. The day started with Band entertainment welcoming participants. The Keynote Address of the day our Lordship Bishop Alfred Rotich retired Military ordinary came in with a very strong connection between Environment –Peace and reconciliation, and sharing with us the genesis of Handshake 2018 in Kenya. Bishop Rotich emphasized the healing of internal and spiritual environment and the inculcation of religious values in environmental and peace efforts, especially at the grassroots level. He introduced himself by going back to his childhood at the village and other schools where he studied; appreciating how there was peace because also the good environment. He used a simple language for young people to understand his teaching. Starting by good morning and how are you, you can be able to download the internal environment of somebody.

Using the famous song of student “If you are happy and you, know clap your hands” Bishop demonstrated by an exercise that people can smile and clap hands even though they are not fine. Then he asked participants to write on a piece of paper what hurts them most anonymously.

This was an opportunity given to people to express what is in their heart youth are requested to be open. He picked then ten samples to be read and they found some issues, which he later discussed.

The issues expressed by participants were discrimination, unemployment, frustration, corruption, drug life, cheating, lack of responsibility, injustice, late coming, judgemental, stereotype, greed and disobedience, instability in family, lack of chance to access higher education, being a child in a divorced family and uncertain future, losing loved ones and ending up by associating with wrong people, issues of lies and disappointment.

From those samples, Bishop helped the audience to understand that up there at school, in the community where we live, at our place of work, there is obviously somebody expressing those kinds of feelings and nobody is listening to him or her. People feel disappointed if they find themselves in a society of lies, corruption, dishonesty, and lack of appreciation and therefore their environment is not safe or they lack peace.

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Bishop wondered how many children have gone through such issues. Students always go to a session of peace but nobody understands them because they have not yet downloaded these issues to be solved, and they will always pretend or assume that things are ok.

Talking about intervention, Bishop said that it is important to start by you and, stand up and rise these scenarios and finally find solutions. What is needed most is how to enter at that centre of somebody’s life understand and help.

He emphasised that the first step in promoting peace is to sit down and look at what is people’s heart, what is the current environment in their hearts, because they can’t give what they don’t have.

Peace is a gift from God, before it becomes a human project even at UN.

God is peace and where peace is lacking is a sign that people did not recognize that God is at the centre. We should understand this by how we do greet each other by saying: peace be with you or Salaam aleikum which means God to be with you.

Bishop Rotich carried also a stick that he used to politicians when he was mediating looking for their commitment for peace and unity in Kenya. The famous stick is found in Holly Bible, Ezekiel chap 37, 15-24.

Here God told the prophet Ezekiel to take two sticks to unite people of Israel, to hold them in one hands and make them to become one Nation.

That is the same stick Bishop Rotich accompanied with other religious leaders did to JUBELEE and NASA leaders which later produced the Handshake.

After collecting the ideas and feeling of people at grassroots, as a multi-sectoral platform, they took them to the presidency, parliament and other institutions. They told them that people are having a lot of issues and many had lost their lives. They mentioned to them Kenya belongs to God and that God wants us to come together as one. After a long period of time, it is that prophecy which produced Handshake.

This is therefore the power of interfaith and faith is very key in solving any issue.


Peace is the fruit of love and justice, and there is a need of leaders and parents to listen to the voice of God.

Young people have to learn what is justice, respect of values, and values of respect of Human life and dignity; so that they may be enough equipped to promote peace and safe environment not tribalism, division, burning, killing, throwing stones etc.

Their mind and hearts must be one because God created them in one image.

350 Kenya

On the second day of the forum, 350 kenya also shared about Decoalonize Kenya, a campaign that they are running against coal plant in Lamu, and coal mining in Kitui. This coal plant is a governmental project which affecting people’s right and Decoalonize is a campaign championing for a fossil fuels free Kenya by proposing renewable energy. For those who always ask why the name of 350, it is a scientific number chosen as the amount of carbon emitted in the atmosphere. Since we are currently over 410, the aim the organization is the reduction up to at least 350.

There is evidence that Countries which did coal mining before are closing down because of effects and are willing to buy energy from other countries from countries which went for other options. Renewable energy is cheaper, healthy and more efficient that is why it should be the choice for Kenya.

Through Decoalonize , 350.kenya is doing climate advocacy and a fossil fuels free campaign, communities engagement, university dialogue, social media campaign, open forums and photo exhibition. As objectives, 350 kenya is intending:

  • To go 100% renewable energy
  • 30% reduction of emission
  • 350 to be achieved
  • Building communities resilient to climate change
  • Awareness about renewable energy

Hare Krishna

As a movement and spiritual organisation, Govinda shared that they are based teaching on Bagvad Gita (a verdict scripture), they teach simplicity and being an emblem of peace. They are located in Ngara and they are running some programs of training, charity programs, especially food for life. Every day they feed in Nairobi sharing over 5000 people. Their message sharing and caring. As the great commandment is love, we have to love by action. Their training program gives knowledge about mental disease in order to prepare a better generation.

Mandy, AGEH

Mandy explained how the environment is diverse like social environment, political environment, economical environmental. Her work is focussing on the issue of migration movement, slavery and human traffic. As we gather youth in such a forum, it is good to make them aware of such danger targeting them. Give them the power to know what issues around what position or decision to take are. People have been victims, lack of peace, human rights violated due to that human traffic, where by young people are cheated that they are taken abroad for employment. Kenya is one of the countries involved and affected. Young people should appreciate their own environment; they need to be empowered to be able to work for their communities.

Father Peter Mbaro

As the host of the forum, the Director of the Centre for Social Justice and Ethics at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa, said that Justice and peace is their focus in the centre. He states that the teaching by institutions should include also the values of peace and environment. We need to challenge ourselves on how to conduct our affairs, if we compromise the environment or we promote it. Then if we fail as Kenyan citizens to take positive action for our home, even our neighbouring countries will be affected. Therefore, we need to renew our commitment.

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Sister Rose Macharia

From the office of sisters of Mercy, who made the forum to be successful by bringing many high school students to participate, said to youth that being in such forum is an opportunity to discover that we can live together in peace and care for the environment. The country as we found it, the old generation as made it worse and the only hope is the young people to make it better. She reminded us that whatever we do is for the glory of God.


As usually, the end the second day is always dedicated to an afternoon concert where there is live Band, dance crew, spoken words and skits. The items to be presented are always relevant to the theme focussing on peace and care for the environment. This forum is also meant to offer space for youth to showcase their talent and built partnerships and friendship.

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This Year we appreciate Healing Style Live Band from CUEA, Vijana Bila Ukabila, Ebulbul Youth, YOUNIB Africa, Youth Network for Interreligious, St. Michael Secondary School, OLM Shauri Moyo and Franciscans novices who made the concert colorful.

At the end, all participants were given a certificate of participation.

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                     “Not to leave anyone behind”

                   Compiled by Steeven KEZAMUTIMA

                          Youth Program manager at JPICFA


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