INTERFAITH YOUTH RETREAT
seeing the rainbow
1-2 May 1999 at Global Retreat Centre
During the first weekend of May 1999, the Brahma Kumaris' Global Retreat Centre played host to an interfaith youth retreat entitled 'Seeing the Rainbow - An exploration of being young and spiritual.' An organising committee consisting of representatives of the Bahai, Jain and Sikh faiths along side the Brahma Kumaris spent six months planning the event together, with the aim of bringing together spiritually-minded young people (between the ages of 18 and 35) to share their life experiences to date.
Having decided upon the format of the weekend, each of the committee members then went back into their respective communities as well as into others not represented within the group and invited young people to attend. In the event 40 individuals representing eight different faiths (Bahai, Quaker, Jain, Sikh, Jewish, Buddhist, Christian and BK) accepted the invitation and came together on the Friday evening at the beautiful setting of the Global Retreat Centre, Oxfordshire.
Over the weekend there were a mixture of activities, such as panel discussions, workshops, story-telling sessions and a creative afternoon. Following a number of ice-breakers and introductions, the first session looked at the difficulties which young people faced in attempting to lead a life of spirituality in modern day society. A number of issues arose such as the different factors which motivated young people to live and behave in the way that they do, the difference between religion and spirituality, and their hopes and aspirations for the future.
After lunch the gathering was split into smaller groups, each of which was given a virtue to explore through the use of a variety of creative media such as story-telling, drama, art and poetry. The resulting presentations proved to be the basis of a most entertaining cultural programme. The next workshop was on the theme of communicating with an open heart. The group sat in a circle, with each person asking their neighbour a question with everyone else listening. The session highlighted how we can underestimate the power of communication and generated an atmosphere of warmth, love and openness.
The final session of the retreat outlined specific scenarios which young people of faith faced, and asked the gathering to explore some possible ways of resolving them. Examples included facing moral dilemmas in the work place, dealing with favouritism at home, and overcoming negative behaviour patterns. The groups faced these issues with a lot of honesty and a number of valuable suggestions arose.
At the end of the retreat all the participants expressed their delight and joy at having been part of such a diverse and yet united group. Many people remarked upon how such a close feeling existed between the group as whole, despite the differences in our respective backgrounds and traditions.
The retreat was too fulfilling to come to an end and thus it was decided to meet up again in mid July to see how the unity we had created could be used to promote inter-religious understanding and harmony in the future.