Empowered Young People
REPORT: Youth Organize "Words Matter (Stop Hate)" Conference
Fifty-three of United Religions Initiative’s 800+ “Cooperation Circles” are in Europe. These grassroots interfaith groups sponsor dozens of programs across the UK and Europe, many of them focused on and organized by interfaith youth activists. Last November “Words Matter (Stop Hate)” was one such project. This short report sticks to the basics, but will give you a sense of what good work is being done by young people in creating a healthy interfaith culture in these troubled times. It’s worth noting the number of different groups that supported the conference.
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The conference Words Matter (Stop Hate) was held on Friday, November 18, 2016, at City College in Coventry, UK. This conference was initiated for a reason; following the UK EU referendum to leave the EU, there has been an increase in hate speech and crime. Especially amongst young people, there has been an increase of online hate speech and an increase of tension in and between communities, thus harming the region’s harmony and prosperity. Additionally, young people need to be vigilant about their use of the internet and applications such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
This conference was resourced with financial help from the United Religions Initiative-Europe and the Big Lottery. Generous in-kind support was provided by City College (Coventry). Volunteers from the Coventry Action, Eden Girls School and others helped to ensure the financial viability of the conference.
Also it was delivered with the support of: Council of Europe, Ministry of Justice, the Interfaith Network of United Kingdom, Media Diversity, All Faith Network and None, Euro-Mediterranean Resources Network, West Midlands Police (Coventry), and Coventry City Council.
More than 130 young people ages 14-25, from diverse backgrounds, educational abilities, and learning settings attended. They meaningfully engaged with the subject of hate speech/crime through discussing the value of choosing words wisely, how words impact themselves and others, and how words are their currency to a successful and happy life for themselves, their family and community.
Initial findings from evaluation survey forms suggest participants valued the contributions of speakers, the methodology of formal and informal learning and discussion sessions, refreshments, and their hope to practice what they learned.
The journey to organize Words Matter involved 12 Champions, young people trained, supported, and resourced to help plan, manage, and produce Words Matter and any follow-up activities. They were presented with certificates and additional resources to help cascade the message of ‘Words Matter - Choose Them Carefully.’
Designating champions was City College and Eden Girls School’s plan for disseminating the message of Words Matter (Stop Hate) with activities such as discussion groups, exhibitions, assemblies, and PHSE (Personal, Social, and Health Education) lessons.
With support from other bodies, Together in Action plans to prepare a resource pack with templates of lesson plans, and other student and teacher resources to promote young people appreciating the power of their words and the positive change that can be generated.
What participants said about this conference:
“I really enjoyed it.”
“It was a great event that should be delivered to the young and old.”
“Thank you for arranging the event. It was good to see young people centre stage.”
“I feel I have positively benefited from this, I appreciate this being put together.”
“I have learnt a lot in this session and it has changed my view about what I say and when.”
“It was just so inspirational.”
“Overall very informative and made us open our eyes to the hate around the world.”
“This has given me the confidence to stand up against hate speech, even if I am scared.”
“Would be useful to repeat with all schools and colleges.”
“More activities to get us more involved.”
Together in Action would especially like to thank City College, Coventry and United Religions Initiative-Europe. Without their support, this event could not have taken place.