Reflections from the G20 Interfaith Forum: A Youth Perspective

My name is Ahmed Abdirahman Said and I am from Turku, Finland. I had the opportunity to attend the G20 Interfaith Youth Forum as a representative of the Muslim Youth Forum of Finland. Muslim Youth Forum of Finland, known in Finland as NMF, aims to offer an opportunity for young Muslims to grow and build their identity as a Finnish Muslim with a diverse cultural background and benefiting and promoting their community, namely with Muslim youth.

I arrived in the beautiful land of Italy with mixed feelings of confusion and excitement. I did my research about the G20 Interfaith Forum as much as I could, but it couldn’t prepare me fully for what was ahead. Ministers, Heads of State and religious leaders participated to the Forum in order to have a dialogue about religious peace and tolerance. In a way, this engagement was out of my comfort zone. However, this forum offered us all an excellent opportunity to see what interfaith work is and a possibility to expand our operations in interfaith activities as well.

For the first couple of days, ACWAY, (A Common Word Among the Youth), a global youth movement that brings together young changemakers from diverse backgrounds who are committed to interfaith action and peacebuilding, held its annual G20 Youth Interfaith Forum. The Youth Forum convened 48 youths from 30 countries and 12 religious and philosophical traditions. it allowed us all the time and space to get to know each other and to prepare for the main forum.

Over the course of the two day Forum, we all engaged in discussions, dialogues, and training workshops. In addition, the Youth Forum offered us a space to engage with religious whom were attending the main forum, including the President of the G20 Organization, Professor W. Cole Durham, Jr, and the Minister of Religious Affairs of Sudan, Nasr al-Din Mufreh. During the Youth Interfaith Forum, I got to meet and connect with some lovely people. At the conclusion of the Youth Forum, we were eager to attend the G20 Interfaith Forum and enjoy the beautiful city of Bologna.

The main G20 Interfaith Forum began on Monday, 13 September. The subject of the first session I attended was on the role of parliamentarians in religious discussion. The session turned out to be very interesting. Dr. Ahmed Mohamed Aljarwan and Heads of State from Africa and South America delivered profound speeches on the subject and how parliamentarians can support grassroots peacemakers. After the panel discussion, the youth onsite had a great opportunity to meet the speakers and discuss with them more about the subject itself.

I also had the pleasure to attend the two main sessions of the forum: the opening ceremony and closing ceremony. Both were attended by very interesting people with interesting speeches. Even the Prime Minister of Italy popped up to give a speech in the closing ceremony.

The feelings left from the adventure in Italy are mixed with amazing memories and the main message of the Forum. During those five days, I met amazing people around the world whom all held different backgrounds and beliefs. We were brought together to witness the discussion held on the matter of interfaith relations and take part in the discussion ourselves. Discussions held with Heads of State and religious leaders, or discussions held between the youth always left me feeling optimistic about the future.

One of the most important takeaways I got from the forum was the longevity of the work. The issues that relevant between different faiths are not solved quickly and require long and patient work. Upon my return to Finland, I will try to implement more interfaith activities into NNF’s yearly programing. In addition, I am to connect more with organizations in Finland who are already concluding interfaith work in order to get more training on the field and collaborate with those on activities or advocacy as a way to advance interfaith relations in Finland.

Meet Ahmed Abdirahman Said, G20 Youth Interfaith Forum Participant

My name is Ahmed Abdirahman Said and I currently live in Turku, Finland. I’m 25 years old. Im currently studying business administration and marketing in the university of Turku. On the side of studying I work part time as marketer in a marketing firm. I’m volunteering in a youth organization called Youth Muslim Forum of Finland. I serve as Vice President of the board. I like to spend my free time with my family and friends and occasionally exercise.