The energy was high as students from various schools and universities in the Manila area entered the Cunesta Astrodome in Pasay City, Philippines, for the Global Peace Youth Festival 2023. Over 5,000 students attended the December 10 event, hosted under the theme, “One Family, One Future: Youth Shaping the World Together.” The event highlighted the transformative power of youth to influence the future. Global Peace Foundation (GPF) Vice President of Operations Daniel Bessell opened the program by thanking the Philippines for their kindness in hosting the event.
Celebrating young people and their innate vision and creativity, festival-goers were then called to action to use those abilities as peacebuilders. When speaking to the young audience during his keynote address, GPF Chairman Dr. Hyun Jin Preston Moon referred to them as “dreamers” who will change the world. “This is the place to be where I will meet the dreamers of the Philippines,” he said.
Young people’s capacity to engage in peacebuilding is unlimited. As today’s influencers and future leaders, they can positively impact their families, communities, and society. Their potential as peacebuilders can only be realized, though, if they are provided with the necessary values, knowledge, and skills. This starts with a foundation based on GPF’s One Family Under God vision of our shared humanity and its related values and principles. Exter A. Galban, assistant secretary of the Department of Education, stressed the importance of education when he noted, “Education is the name of the game.” He reiterated that academics alone are insufficient; it must be a more holistic approach, including programs for mental health, nutrition, family planning, drug education, career guidance, and sports.
With knowledge also comes responsibility. While recognizing that youth are a catalyst for change, Jing Castaneda, a noted broadcaster, social media personality, and youth advocate, advised the young students that social media is a responsibility, and that caution must be used when navigating online. “Your generation knows which platform to use” and to “create content for peace, Ms. Castenda commented. GPF Korea representative Heeryoung Haley Kim, a staunch advocate for a unified Korea, inspired the attendees to be active innovators and leaders—not bystanders. She said, “My dream is for everyone to enjoy freedom-based rights.”
Empowering youth was a consistent topic throughout the festival. Chief of Staff of Pasay City ,Peter Eric Pardo, representing Mayor Imelda G. Calixto-Rubiano, told the festival participants, “The young people are not just the future; they are the present of the world.” He called on them to use their energy, advocation, and open-mindedness to be peacebuilders. He encouraged them “to learn peace early and carry it forward.”
Several influential GPF youth leaders expressed the importance of respecting diversity in achieving unity. Shintya Rahmi Utami, GPF Indonesia, commented, “We adjust with the local culture in Indonesia.” According to Pach Pagnavorn, Global Peace Alliance Cambodia, 60 percent of the population in Cambodia is under 25. “We are all together the same as one family. Youth is the change.” Rumit Walla of GPF India, noted that they always include the people. “When we say peace, it is different for everyone. Peace never stands alone.” Recognizing the importance of diversity, GPF Philippines representative Kier Aventrado ensured that everyone is represented and that “communication is very important.”
Throughout the festival, the young students actively listened and enthusiastically engaged with the speakers. They acknowledged their role as peacebuilders and future leaders and the need to acquire the values, education, and skills to do so. Several students from the Universidad de Manila said they were at the festival “to learn.” Closing out the festival’s speakers, Tristan Nodalo, CNN Philippines, reminded the students, “At the end of the day, it’s about being real; it’s about being authentic.”
The Global Peace Youth Festival was hosted as part of the 2023 Global Peace Convention, the bi-annual convening of the Global Peace Foundation. The convention hosted eight tracks, with virtual sessions beginning on November 1 and concluded with in-person assembles in Manila.