Youth PoWR: young adults in an interconnected world

Participants of Youth PoWR consultation in Bondi. Photo: CCCMR

Participants of Youth PoWR consultation in Bondi. Photo: CCCMR

There’s something unique about being a young adult today. Typically categorised between the ages 18-35, it’s often a time when one undertakes tertiary studies, their first full-time job and pursues their vocation in life. However, many young adults that I’ve come across also like to go beyond boundaries, willing to take risks and try new things, go travelling to different places and to meet new people. Today, thanks to our digital devices, we literally have the world at our ‘fingertips’. Our world is interconnected and intertwined with each other. For me, this is what Youth PoWR epitomises.  

Youth PoWR (Parliament of the World’s Religions) is an initiative of the Columban Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations. It seeks to encounter and engage with young adults from different faith traditions and beliefs. Youth PoWR is an opportunity for young adults to share their stories, ideas and experiences. They discuss issues that matter to them and make shared commitments to break down fears, prejudices and stereotypes, together building social cohesion for our multi-religious society. Youth PoWR is by youth, for youth, with youth. It is coordinated by a committee of young adults from different religions who volunteer in helping to organise events. Each represents their own faith tradition, bringing their unique skills and talents to inspire and to challenge participants. The Committee chooses peers from their own faith communities to represent them as speakers and performers. We deliberately set out on getting young adults involved as it is their event. 

Unfortunately, there are not many events that are focused on gathering young adults of different faith traditions. Too often at interfaith events, it is a ‘top-down’ approach where religious elders take charge and speak, leaving little to no room for young adult involvement. The inaugural Youth PoWR was held in 2015. Since then, hundreds of young adults across Sydney have gathered. 

Youth PoWR’s most recent achievement is The Sydney Statement, an inspirational and practical interfaith charter for “Building Bridges Between Believers from Different Religions”. Over two years, Youth PoWR generated the content through a series of consultations where we gathered their ideas, opinions and thoughts. Youth PoWR then approved the text and authorised its publication. It was officially launched in March 2021. This interfaith charter is a statement by the young adults of Sydney to encourage all to pursue mutual respect, understanding and cooperation between believers from different faith traditions.

In seeing young adults of faith come together from diverse religious, cultural and ethnic backgrounds, these events are dynamic and PoWRful! My greatest joy is hearing young adults in small group discussions erupting in laughter as an expression of their great joy in each other’s company. Young adults are the leaders of today and we can role model this to all through our interactions. When we listen, reflect and respond to what others have to say, we can discover ‘gems’ of insights and understanding, which we can integrate into our lives and journey together. My hope is that Youth PoWR doesn’t become stagnant and continues to evolve through new and creative ways to better connect with young adults. This a critical moment in the lives of young adults to take risks and try new things. For young adults to go beyond boundaries.

Ryan Epondulan, Youth & Networking Coordinator, Columban Centre for Christian Muslim Relations

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