On Sunday Feb 21st 2021, three members of this year’s Russell Berrie fellowship cohort – Gianluca Avanzato, Gloria Guisbert, and Sophie Palopoli– were honored to participate in an international youth zoom meeting with the Higher Committee for Human Fraternity, an international peacebuilding organization based in Abu Dhabi. The organization was founded after Pope Francis’ first visit to the Arabian Peninsula in 2019 and JPII Leader Emily Judd (Cohort XI) just started as their senior communications specialist. The Zoom meeting featured Senior Rabbi Bruce Lustig from Washington, DC, and 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Leymah Gbowee, as well as 12 students from around the world (United States, Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Morocco, Ghana, UAE, Kuwait).
The discussion turned to issues or concerns the participants would bring up with Pope Francis and the Grand Imam if they had the chance. Gianluca responded “When asked what I would discuss with the Pope and the Grand Imam, should I have their audience, I shared that we must explicitly include sexuality in our definition of human fraternity and extend the dignity we uphold in the Document on Human Fraternity to our gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, and/or transgender brothers, sisters, and siblings.” Other issues participants said they would discuss included the situation of refugees and displaced peoples.
The participants discussed the Document on Human Fraternity – signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar Ahmed Al Tayeb – and how youth have the power to change the world.
Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee talked about her own challenges in sowing peace in her native country of Liberia and encouraged the students to pursue their passions. “It was a privilege to take part in the Higher Committee on Human Fraternity’s Youth Program Zoom conference, in which Leymah Gbowee offered some of her thoughts on the role of youth in peace building,” said Russell Berrie Fellow Gianluca Avanzato. “Inspired by her charge to listen to ‘what makes you angry’ and to ‘be grounded in your call,’ the conversation opened up to us, a small selection of participants from around the world,“ he continued.
If you would like to read the Document on Human Fraternity