Empowered young people play a critical role in the development of communities. Young people need to be imparted with vital skills that enable communities to thrive, especially in areas concerning youth. Young people require information and education to be able to fully access and exercise their rights; this will enable them to effectively participate in the development of their communities.
In this regard, Faith to Action Network partner, The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) organized a three-day intensive skills-building conference targeting 30 youth aged 18 to 28 years from the Lutheran Congregations.
The conference themed “Youth Leading the Change,”, aimed to equip participants with leadership skills needed to bring meaningful and positive contributions to the Palestinian society so that they can be young agents of change. The conference sought to increase the agency and the voice of young people in promoting their active role in influencing policy change and implementation.
In the sessions, the youth were able to strategize on ways and incentives to strengthen youth participation. In addition, creating safe spaces for young people to express themselves and reflect on their needs and hopes for a better future. Gender Justice Program Manager, Ranan Issa, and Gender Justice Program Assistant, Shadin Nassar, presented a session on leadership which focused on qualities of a good leader. Rev. Elina Siukonen and Rev. Ashraf Tannous spoke about the importance and theological basis of gender equality and why it matters to the Lutheran church. They particularly noted the upcoming ordination of the ELCJHL’s first Palestinian female pastor, a 25 years old, Rev. Sally Azar. ELCJHL encouraged her to study Theology and vouched for her to be awarded a scholarhsip by the Evangelical lutheran church in America.
The conference sessions were complemented by different talks that expounded on the theological foundation for women’s rights and gender equality in the Church. In addition, Rev. Rodny Said, a young reverend aged between 15-30, discussed the Christian Identity in Palestine and held an open discussion with the youth on the challenges they face being a Palestinian Lutheran.
During the discussions, many participants demonstrated their passion for the topic of youth leadership in Palestine and their role in influencing change on transforming social norms and practices of different communities.
“The conference was a great opportunity for young people to be heard; giving the youth a chance to express themselves is something that is not so common.” Marah Demes
The youth called for bold and transformative steps that are needed to overcome the root causes of inequality and discrimination. Their recommendations to bring this change included: The Lutheran church having a fully-fledged youth ministry that is youth-led and self-sustaining where they can discuss the issues of gender equality; having dialogues on how young women can be leaders in society; creating platforms for the youth to use their voices and reach out to more people; and, encouraging freedom of speech for the youth by creating opportunities for them to engage in theological dialogues about their identity in the church.
The youth expressed a passion to hold future conversations around equal job opportunities for men and women with equal pay; challenging gender roles and gender-based norms in the Palestinian society and, becoming good leaders who will influence the next generation.
This activity was part of the Young Women for Awareness, Agency, Advocacy, and Accountability #YW4A programme, implemented by Faith to Action Network and ELCJHL in Palestine.
Contributor: Ranan Issa, Gender Justice Program Manager, The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL).