In March, young adult representatives of the RCH joined 1600 young people at the gathering of the International Ecumenical Youth Meeting in Beirut, Lebanon.
From March 22-26, representatives of the Reformed Church in Hungary (RCH) joined young people from 43 countries gathered in Beirut, Lebanon for the International Ecumenical Youth Meeting organized by the Taizé community. The gathering in Beirut was different from other international youth meetings; It was initiated and organized by Christian young people in Lebanon, and not by their churches. For 18 months, 120 young people met every week to plan the four-day event with 1600 participants from all over the world. Dr. Souraya Bechealany, Secretary General of the Middle East Council of Churches, reflected on activating the ecumenical spirit and work among young people, “This is not a passing meeting. It is rather a spiritual youth event that aims at deepening the roots of faith, hope, and unity among the Christian youth by showing the wealth of their diverse church and national identities.”
A delegation of seven young adults from various fields of work attended the ecumenical meeting: Rev. Péter Bedekovics, head of the RCH Youth Office, György Feke, Editor-in-chief of reformatus.hu, Szabina Sztojka, seminary student and Associate Student Minister at the Scottish Mission in Budapest, Priscilla Yang, Global Mission Intern serving with the RCH, Zsófia Marton, colleague of ÖDE (Diaconal Year in Hungary) of the HRCA, Györgyi Czikó, seminary student and representative of the Student Union at Károli Gáspár University of the RCH and Diána Erdélyi, Ecumenical Secretary of the RCH,
Centered on the theme The Righteous shall grow like a Cedar of Lebanon from Psalm 92, the agenda of the International Ecumenical Youth Meeting included several prayers throughout the day, listening to stories of people committed to the common good, and various workshops and discussions on peaceful coexistence and cohabitation between different religious communities. In small groups, participants were also able to reflect on their roots, what nourishes their faith, and how they can reach out to others like branches of the cedar.
The day of the Annunciation to Mary, March 25th, was reserved for Christian-Muslim dialogue. Young people from Muslim communities joined the international gathering to share their experiences and engage in discussions.
March 25th is a public holiday in Lebanon. Even though the population in Lebanon is mostly Muslim, there is a relatively large Christian population as well. In recent years, the Annunciation to Mary was made a joint Muslim-Christian holiday.
“We admire the deep faith of the Christians in Lebanon. And we admire that they are at the same time able to enter into dialogue with the Muslim community,” said Brother Alois, the prior of the Taizé community, “We are convinced that Lebanon is the door of understanding between the East and the West. And this understanding between East and West is very much needed, not only for the Church but also for humanity.” The meeting brought young people together to deepen in faith through common prayer and a shared reading of the Bible, to learn from the long experience of coexistence of Christians in Lebanon with the various Muslim communities, and to seek a common future of hope and cooperation between continents. During the four-day ecumenical gathering, the participants were introduced to the vibrant traditions of Eastern churches, the richness of the ecumenical relations that already exist in Lebanon, and the warm hospitality of its people.
Following the International Ecumenical Youth Meeting, the RCH young adults joined the delegation of senior church leaders of the Reformed Church in Hungary for conversations with church leaders of the National Evangelical Church of Syria and Lebanon (NESSL) and the Union of the Armenian Evangelical Churches in the Near East (UAECNE).
Written by Priscilla Yang
Photo: György Feke