The Commonwealth has concluded a ‘Faith in the Commonwealth’ training of trainers in Yaoundé, Cameroon. Twenty-five young leaders from across the country’s ten regions attended a four-day residential programme to promote community cohesion through global citizenship education.
The Cameroonian young leaders are the latest to benefit from the Faith in the Commonwealth initiative, a partnership between the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Khalili Foundation that uses the principles of global citizenship education to promote greater respect and understanding across different faiths, cultures and beliefs.
So far the Commonwealth has delivered training sessions in Bangladesh, Kenya, and Trinidad and Tobago.
The workshop combined practical facilitation skills with theories of how identities and cultures form and change. It developed the aptitudes of critical thinking and attitudes of tolerance, respect and understanding that underpin global citizenship and which promote social cohesion and peace-building efforts.
The participants will now return to their communities to lead tailored social action initiatives designed to build peace, social inclusion and respect and understanding from the grass roots.
Mr Felix Mbayu, Cameroonian’s Minister Delegate at the Ministry of External Relations attended the opening ceremony and described the Commonwealth programme as “timely and topical” and “an important investment in the Cameroonian youth.”
He said, “At a time when our national political landscape faces challenges to our living together, any effort which emphasises the need to strengthen our commonalities, instead of our differences, is very welcome.” The Minister pledged to follow up the Commonwealth initiative with peer-based training and Commonwealth clubs in schools.
In her opening remarks, Anna Sherburn, Deputy Director of the Countering Violent Extremism Unit, stressed that the programme was anchored in the shared values enshrined in the Commonwealth Charter.
She said, “In the Commonwealth we celebrate diversity. It is written into the core of our charter. We respect difference. We seek to promote understanding between faiths, between cultures and between communities at every level: local, regional, national and international. Events such as this training, which creates networks among young people, are, in many ways, the soul of the Commonwealth.”
After the first day of training, the young participants reflected on the power of the programme’s emphasis on respect and understanding of self and others’ identities, and how the first session offered them new approaches to work with their communities and lead change through dialogue and social action.
“Nothing for us without us,” Melvin Songwe Shuye declared. Nguemou Wafo Eugenie Elvire added, “I’m amazed by the things that come out of me when I connect.”
Head of Social Policy, Layne Robinson, spoke about the importance of the workshop to empower young people to become positive agents for social change.
He said, “For decades, the Commonwealth has supported young people to connect and create change through youth networks, such as our Youth Peace Ambassadors Network. Our networks provide a voice for young people to advocate to Commonwealth leaders and to express what is important to them. They help to influence change nationally, through the Commonwealth Youth Council and at forums such as the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting.”
The next Faith in the Commonwealth Youth Training of Trainers programme will be delivered in Uganda in December.