Reflections from the APIYN Youth Camp Opening Ceremonies
By Max Ediger
On December 7, Sopharak “Small” and I were invited to attend the opening ceremony of the 2015 Asia-Pacific Interfaith Youth Network (APIYN) Youth Camp that was held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The youth camp this year is themed “Multi-religious Youth Action to Overcome Violent Religious Extremism.” On that topic, Kyeongil Jung, director of Saegil Christian Institute for Society and Culture gave the keynote address at the opening ceremonies entitled “Spiritual Friends in a Suffering World.” He shared many very helpful insights, but I wish to pass on only a couple key points in this blog.
After looking at the many forms of suffering in our world today, Jung proposed three antidotes for religious extremism and violence. He made clear that religious extremism and violence appear in all of our religions and we must all take action to stop it. The three antidotes he proposed are as follows.
Hospitality versus Hostility
On this point Jung emphasized that hostility comes from the fear of the other, and that fear comes from ignorance of the other. We are afraid of that which we do not know nor understand.
To move to hospitality, we must be willing to learn new and good things from strangers. We must be willing to open our homes and our hearts to those we do not know or may even fear. It is through this hospitality that we can overcome hostility.
We must also recognize that in the interconnected world, we are both hosts and guests. We must welcome the stranger and also be ready to be welcomed by the stranger. This is true hospitality and is taught by all our faiths.
Humility versus Hubris
Hubris is exaggerated pride or self-confidence in one’s self and one’s beliefs. This is a great barrier to humility which is required for us to live together peacefully and with mutual respect.
We all must recognize that we do not have the truth; rather the truth has us. We must be willing and ready to hear the truth from the “other”.
The goal of interfaith friendship is not agreement but rather understanding. Through true dialogue we learn to understand each other even though we may not be in full agreement. It requires humility to dialogue with those who are different.
Empathy versus Apathy
Jung illustrated that when we feel pain in some point of our body, that point becomes the “center of our body.” So too, where the world suffers that part must become the center of our universe. That is the true meaning of empathy.
He emphasized that sometimes we focus on spiritual practice such as meditation and prayer to seek peace. However, spiritual practice without social practice is empty. Our spiritual practice must draw us to the center of the universe – those points where there is suffering and pain.
Hospitality, humility and empathy are three antidotes to religious extremism and violence. Our lives should focus on making them realities in everything we do and say.