Reflection from the 

Global Youth, Religion and Mediation Course in Helsinki

Written by Sougourounoma Henri Kabore, YRMC Cohort

When I first saw the call for applications for the Youth, Religion and Mediation Course, I immediately realized that I needed to apply to deepen my engagement in my work as a young peacebuilder and interfaith dialogue practitioner. Fortunately, my application was successful and I was so happy to be among the twenty youth leaders selected for a global cohort. I was also excited about the venue of the training. Finland is one the most peaceful countries in the world and their commitment to mutual understanding is reknown. They even had one Nobel Peace Prize laureate, the late President Martti Ahtisaari.

The program was rich and took into account the different aspects of the theme. The fact that the Network for Traditional and Religious Peacemakers partnered with the Rose Castle Foundation, Mediators Beyond Borders International, CMI and the United States Institute of Peace gave a special note to the training through the diversity and depth of experiences and resources provided by each of them.

Prior to the in-person training, we took part in an online training that was informative, while giving us the opportunity as youth to come up with our resources and experiences from the ground.

The in-person part of the training was held in Helsinki, the capital city of Finland, the country of one thousand lakes – a country where it was too cold for my fellow cohort member Sahelian, who like me is used to a warmer weather and there is almost no sunlight over the day.

The curriculum of the training was interesting. We did not feel like we were in a classroom listening to a lecture. The trainers had the ability to share their knowledge while giving us the opportunity to discuss in small groups and to further share our outcomes in plenary sessions. It was really interactive. I loved learning many things from the trainers, such as the ACCP tool for conflict analysis, the Twelve Habits of the Reconcilier, the religious dimension of peacebuilding, the qualities of a mediator, gender and peacebuilding, and listening to the experience of Venerable Napan, an insider mediator from Thailand. The trainers were so lovely, open and keen to share their knowledge with us to help us make another step in our journey as peace mediators with religious backgrounds. I also loved enriching myself with the experiences and perspectives of other participants in their engagement for religion and mediation within their communities, as we came from different countries. It was also wonderful to learn from their cultures and countries during the cultural night; I enjoyed the food and souvenirs everyone brought to the table.

I also appreciated the outside activities. It was great to celebrate the International UN Day for Peace with the Oecumenical Choir in a Church, in a spirit of interfaith peace with participants from diverse religious backgrounds.

The visit to the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs was a great opportunity for us to engage with Ambassador Timo Heino, Ambassador for Cultural and Religious Dialogue, Ms Katja Ahfors, Director of the Center for Peace Mediation and their colleagues as well as with Mr. Suldaan Said Ahmed who is a former member of parliament.  In addition, we met with Finnish youth who are working at the local level to foster peaceful communities, including Daniela Miller from the Young Men’s Christian Association and Anne Heikkinen from the youth section of the National Forum for Cooperation of Religions in Finland.

I had the opportunity to make some remarks on the importance of supporting youth in their engagement in peace and security, especially in countries like Burkina Faso that have been facing violent extremism for many years. I stressed the necessity to develop national action plans for the implementation of the UNSC 2250 Resolution on Youth, Peace and Security and I advocated for the support of the Finnish government  for young mediators for a greater engagement in peacebuilding.

It was also great to have the opportunity to participate in the 10th Anniversary of the Advisory Group Meeting of the Network for Traditional and Religious Peacemakers. I learned a lot, shared my experiences and points of view and I practiced networking. I also appreciated that young mediators were asked to contribute to host the sessions as speakers.

In the end, I went back home more motivated, more equipped and more enthusiastic to continue my engagement in the field of youth, religion and mediation at the community level and beyond. I cannot wait to share with my peers what I learned in Helsinki.

About Sougourounoma Henri Kabore

Henri has more than 15-years of experience in community engagement. He is the Founder of the Burkina Faso Interfaith Youth Network and the Executive Director of the Sougourounoma Initiative for Education, Peace and Health (ISEPS). While working with DanChurchAid Mali/Burkina in 2022 as Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding Technical Advisor, he developed a methodology on gender-sensitive conflict analysis and conflict sensitivity, dialogue facilitation, local peace structures and community action planning for a project consortium. Previously, he worked with Oxfam in Burkina Faso as Peacebuilding Advisor for three years. Henri has great experience in supporting youth and women civil society organizations for dialogue, mediation and campaigns towards the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and UN Security Council Resolution 2250 Resolutions. He holds a Masters Degree in Mediation and Conflict Management at the University of Ouagadougou and took several professional and academic short ttrainings, including the community and political mediation course at the Alioune Blondin Beye Peacekeeping School in Bamako, Mali.

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