Written by Nina Urbonya
CARP’s International Liaison, Nina Urbonya, recently returned from a trip to the 4th International Youth Assembly in the Philippines from September 23-25, 2016. She shares some of her experiences and the incredible foundation and impact CARP Philippines has.
“You look Filipina!” exclaimed the CARP members who picked me up at the airport. I don’t know why, but that welcome made me feel very happy and at home in the Philippines; I am half-Asian after all.
You may not have heard of the International Youth Assembly (IYA), but it’s pretty big in the Philippines and has been making waves among young people for the past three years. This year, the fourth IYA was held in Tagbilaran City in the beautiful province of Bohol with the theme of Peace-Loving Global Youth: Vanguards of Change Towards Sustainable Peace and Prosperity. Bohol, or “God’s little paradise,” is home to the world’s smallest monkey named Tarsier, its mesmerizing chocolate-colored hills, and miles of beautiful beaches.
At the beginning of this year, seven determined Cheon Il Guk (CIG) missionaries from America went to the Philippines where they invested 50 days of their stay pioneering in Bohol with the local CARP chapter there. I was surprised to find that several of the hardworking staff of IYA had joined CARP only a few months ago through the CIG missionaries. It was inspiring to see the efforts of our missionaries bearing so much fruit in Bohol. This IYA was made possible thanks to these missionaries and I am so proud of them!
With a 20-hour plane ride to get to the Philippines, I definitely thought that I had traveled the most hours to get to the event. However, I found out several others also traveled that long, only by bus.
Over 500 student leaders represented universities from all over the Philippines and gathered for the 3-day assembly. There were also a few international delegates from Albania, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, and the United States.
Education First, Fun Later
The first day focused almost entirely on education. The program began with remarks from the Mayor of Tagbilaran and the Regional President for Universal Peace Federation-Asia. Special lectures by guest speakers were given on topics like The Role of Academe in Promoting Youth Leadership and Social Change, Youth and National Development, and Core Values in a Changing World.
“Through the lectures, I could better understand the fundamentals of peace and different ways in which we can contribute towards achieving peace.” – Student from Bohol Island State University
I also had a chance to give a presentation to the group with the topic title, Peace-Loving Global Leaders: Find your Purpose, Transform the World. This fit very nicely with one of CARP America’s Unification Principles, “You can contribute to society through mastery of our unique creativity.”
Based on the ‘STEP UP’ curriculum in America, I facilitated an exercise where each student wrote their personal mission statement to help them clarify their purpose in life. I invited seven students to declare their mission statements in front of the crowd; it was an inspiring moment to watch the audience cheer them on.
“Imagine what it would be like if we all actively worked on our missions…What kind of impact would we have on the world?” I have no doubt that if all 500 student leaders present at this assembly went out with the mission to use their talents to contribute to society, we could turn the nation of the Philippines (and the world) around 180 degrees.
The day ended with the “International Friendship Night” where diverse cultural performances and entertainment took place. The talent of the Philippines shined with singers who captured the hearts of the audience. One participant shared, “It was so nice to see the different country representatives sharing their culture through dance and music.”
Solving Societal Issues Together
The second day kicked off with the World Café at the main campus of the Bohol Island State University. Students were divided into groups to discuss important issues affecting youth in society such as drug addiction, immorality, and free sex and were tasked to come up with proposals to solve them. There was a great dynamic as student leaders from different universities put their heads together to come up with realistic solutions to problems they face on campus everyday.
In the afternoon, participants joined in the “IYAlympics” for some exciting sports and games. Everyone enjoyed the activities and many prizes were given out. The energy ran high as participants cheered and encouraged each other. The whole afternoon was filled with smiles and friendship. There’s nothing like bonding over a competitive game of hula hoop relay where teamwork is key.
The games were fun, but they also reflected how we can tackle problems plaguing our communities. Just as we could only win the game when we totally united as a team, it is only when we, as future leaders, come together and unite as a team that we can help solve the issues of society and bring peace to our communities.
The day ended with a Gala where the highlight was the induction of regional and local CARP officers. The officers were officially handed a certificate acknowledging their determination to step up as front runners in expanding CARP in their various regions and communities. There was a sense of immense hope as the audience applauded the officers.
Young People Use their Energy to Promote Purity
“One Love, One Life, One Man, One Wife!”
This chant was shouted repeatedly as 2,300 young people from over 40 different colleges and organizations took to the streets in a Pure Love Rally to take a stand for purity. The locals in the community watched in curiosity as we marched through the main streets of Tagbilaran with colorful banners. This rally reminded us that love is a sacred and precious thing and worth fighting for.
Later, a few of us went to a local radio station, DYRD, for a brief interview about our experience in IYA and the meaning behind the Pure Love Rally. We encouraged listeners that change begins from within ourselves. It was a great opportunity to share about the 3-day assembly and its ideals with the larger community.
The 3-day assembly came to a conclusion at the Bohol Wisdom School Gymnasium with everyone holding hands and singing the song, We Are Unity. “We are one, but we are different, we’re from all around the world, we share the same sun, we share the same ocean,” a beautiful song that truly expressed how we felt in that moment.
It has been an incredible experience. I learned so much the past 3 days and was welcomed so warmly to the Philippines. I was immediately won over by the bright and positive spirit of all the participants and their strong desire to take a leading role in bringing peace to their campus. My wish is that one day soon we will also be able to welcome many Filipino brothers and sisters to America.
Participating in this IYA has fueled my passion and desire to facilitate exchanges between CARP America and CARP Philippines. If we truly want One Family Under God to become more than just a pretty phrase and a beautiful dream, we need to connect, understand, and support each other. We are the ones that can make it a reality!
I am grateful to CARP for giving me this opportunity to create a bridge between the Philippines and America. Next year, I hope that many of our American CARP members can also attend IYA!