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“Can youth’s new ideas defeat extremism?”
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“Can youth’s new ideas defeat extremism?”

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Tiloma Chandrasekera - picYoung people play an integral role in advancing development, democracy and peace. At the 10th Commonwealth Youth Forum in Malta, 21-25 November, over 400 youth leaders will discuss the challenges and opportunities facing young people, and devise relevant policy solutions through four main agendas – economic, environmental, social and political. The theme of the Forum is ‘Adding Global Value… #Whatnext?’. Tiloma Chandrasekera, 28, a Correspondent from Colombo in Sri Lanka examines the roles of thought and extremism. 

Most of us millennials have grown up reading comic books about super heroes with super powers; if we didn’t read comic books, we may have seen a movie or two based on a super hero.

Better yet, we may have seen a television series about super heroes.

Or it may have been myths about warriors, beings with super human strengths, the good guy in a folk tale, whatever highlights a difference in an otherwise normal human.  Why are we attracted to these? Is it simply because it’s different? Is it because it sets the super hero apart from the rest? Or is it something that enables the super hero to make a change or be the change? Although these maybe common thoughts that run through any young person’s mind, did we stop to think that we do indeed possess a super power?

Mind power or the power of thought is considered to be a power inherent to highly evolved species such as humans. If you “think” about it, everything that we say or do is based on thought. However some argue that “mind” refers to a person’s intellect or the location of their consciousness and their ability to think, whilst an “idea” is a thought or plan or suggestion that is birthed inside the same mind. Linguistic definitions aside, a single thought is all that it takes to create, destroy, or shape any circumstance for the better or for the worse.

We have often heard phrases such as “Man, discovered fire”, “man invented the wheel”, “Man, landed on the moon”, “man discovers/invents/theorizes…..”. All of this is due to the power of thought. However, history tells us that “X waged a war against Y”, ”X did this to Y” and then we stop and think, why did these events occur? What was the reasoning behind these? Was it justifiable? Does thinking to the contrary make us different? Does it mean that we are the change? Are we super heroes for being opinionated and following a minority view of the circumstances before us?

Extremism is the holding of strong views, especially in religious or political circumstances. Then again, what is religion and what is politics? Does religion define who you are? Do politics define who you are? These questions are posed to ensure that young people do indeed “think” and arrive at conscious answers. It is well accepted that religions such as Buddhism, with its doctrine of flux and the concept of Nirvana, or Hinduism which recognizes the dignity of the individual by identifying the human soul with the Absolute, Christianity with its enunciation of the Fatherhood of God, and Islam with its emphasis on the Brotherhood of Man, have all inspired the contemporary struggle for recognition of rights and freedoms.

They have also bestowed respect towards one another, which is relevant in a global village. Are we driven by political ideologies to create exclusive states that segregate one another and exhibit our inability to co-exist while respecting cultural, political and religious differences? Why do we do this? Why do we sit together with familiar faces or feel comfortable with familiarity? Does it make us feel safe? Are we threatened? Does anyone have the right to threaten your peaceful enjoyment of life? Or are we simply paranoid?

It is indeed heart-breaking to note that many do not believe in the power of thought and the importance of fundamental reasoning. We are blessed with conscious thinking, our religiousness or lack thereof and political knowledge shouldn’t be what drives us. Our conscious reasoning through our own thoughts without mimicry should shape the way we “think”. Young people therefore should engage in dialogue about extremism, reasoning why it has become a global trend and understand that it is a clear violation of fundamental rights of any person.

From 21st -25th of November 2015, young people from cross cultural backgrounds and representing their respective states are given the opportunity to raise their voices and their concerns in the Commonwealth Youth Forum (CYF). The CYF 2015 will provide a vital platform in facilitating the engagement of conscious dialogue between participants in addressing the challenges posed by global extremism that they, as young people, face.

The CYF is jointly organised by the Commonwealth Youth Council (CYC), the Youth Affairs Division of the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Government of Malta. In keeping line with the theme of CYF 2015; “Adding Global Value…#WHATNEXT?”, young people will express what they “think” in countering the rise of global extremism in order to ensure that the Commonwealth they live in is secure and peaceful.

photo credit: Contemplation – Dartmoor, Devon via photopin (license)
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About me: I am an Attorney-at-Law and lecturer with a diverse legal practice. Whilst practising predominantly in the field of industrial relations and employment, I also handle commercial litigation, arbitration, and appeals. Presently I am a Master’s Candidate in Human Rights at the University of Colombo. My interest areas include youth empowerment and democratic participation.

In the future, I plan to continue further studies and practice as a counsel. Words I live by are “Carpe diem”.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit:
http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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