Back in February, five of our World Link students; Sahar Tuma (Israel/CA), Asma Rassem (Yemen/CO), Selbi Veliyeva (Turkmenistan/CA), Ernis Sultanov (Kyrgyzstan/IA) and Kasiet Azamatova (Kyrgyzstan/CA), were selected to attend the Better Understanding for a Better World Conference (BUBW) in Orlando, FL.
This 5-day conference, led by Imam Mohamed Bashar Arafat, had 21 countries represented and focused on how cultural diversity leads to prosperity, the benefits of religious diversity, and developing leadership skills in the age of the ‘global village’.
During the conference, participants learned about three major religions; Islam, Judaism, and Christianity through visiting a mosque, synagogue, and a church and having panel discussions with a representative of each religion. Participants heard about religious discrimination and intolerance throughout the world and how through education and knowledge of differences, an understanding can be achieved. A banquet was held at the end of the conference, in which each participant wore traditional dress and presented on what makes each country unique. This banquet allowed participants to gain first-hand knowledge of cultural differences and start to break down stereotypes which surround them. And of course a trip to Orlando would not be complete without visits Disney World!
Kasiet found the cultural sharing banquet to be transforming:
“[Participants] came to share their culture, new ideas of a better world, and break stereotypes and barriers between each other. After this conference everybody, who participated in it, started to think not only about their little problems, they began think more global, about whole world. As an alumna of this conference, I would like to change the world for the better through educating my community!”
The lesson Ernis took away from the conference is one for youth all around the world, to be a leader. He learned becoming a leader requires to have the desire, the belief in yourself, and a strong work ethic. This lesson has encouraged Ernis to continue to develop his leadership skills so he can one day lead the younger generation. For Asma, learning about Judaism was one of the most interesting topics for her and furthering her knowledge and building a global community of support for Sahar was an opportunity she was thankful for:
“For me it gave me an opportunity to be educated on so many issues that I just ignored or put behind, one of them being discrimination. It was so eye-opening in such a fun way, we made wonderful friendships with people from all around the world, friendships that we all will value forever. 21 countries represented by 30 teenagers and all with the same goal, impacting our host community and our home community, impacting wherever we might end up in the future, with our knowledge and not only self-acceptance and cultural acceptance but also acceptance of others no matter their race, religion, age, color, interests or beliefs. I will always talk about this conference every time I get the chance to, I want the new students from my country to have a chance to apply to this and to be able to experience such amazing journey.”
Thank you to the Civilizations Exchange and Cooperation Foundation (CECF) for putting on this conference. As Selbi wrote of the five days:
“It was great, it was fun and educational! Loved it!”