The AMIGOS met last week in Paraguay to plan the 2nd Global Youth Summit (GYS) of Mennonite World Conference (MWC). The event will happen July 10th-12th, 2009, immediately followed by MWC’s 15th World Assembly July 13-19. It will all take place in Asuncion, Paraguay…with independent trips to surrounding countries or regions before or after World Assembly.
At GYS, 50 delegates from 50 countries will meet to discuss the idea/practice of “Christian service”, social concerns, and church politics. Delegates will be given an assignment prior to the Summit to survey at least 50 people about what service means to them, what they see are the major issues in their local and national society, and youth involvement in their local church context. With answers and further questions coming in from all over the world, the delegates will work together to create a comprehensive statement on service and the other topics. They will present it to the MWC General Council, which consists of a church leader representative from each organized Menno/Anabaptist national conference in the world.
In addition to the delegates, the AMIGOS committee is expecting about 700-750 participants. Unlike the delegates who represent the youth (ages 18-30) in the Menno/Anabaptist churches in their country, participants come representating themselves, for their own personal reasons and interests. The participants create the atmosphere of theological debate and discussion, as well as a lot of laughter and soccer playing. In Zimbabwe, GYS felt like a big family reunion with all the extended family…cousins you’d never met but heard about, grandparents who told stories of days past, and lots of email exchanging and promises to “keep in touch”. It was and continues to be all about seeing who was and is part of the Menno/Anabaptist family globally: To learn that what we imagine we have in common, we don’t…and to find sweet connections through life situations that draw us closer to one another.
It is generally really encouraging to see young Mennonites from all over the world…but also a lot of people are shocked by the diversity of beliefs, and traditions. Many very open-minded, inclusive, and anti-capitalist youth from the global North are surprised to interact with some wealth-disparity and exclusivity endorsing youth from the global South. Generalizations start to fall apart, stereotypes are broken. All the issues begin to get tricky on a level of trickiness uncommon within a local or even national context. It is really cool to see how conversations about redistribution of wealth and solidarity begin to form among GYSers.
Each continental delegation leads a worship service, and young people share their faith journeys or testimonies with one another. For many, the experience is life changing. I encourage everyone who can (those who are older than 30 can come as observers) to start saving money to come to Paraguay in 2009 (about U$S 2,000 all inclusive).
GYS plays an important role because it connects conversations about faith that happen independently around the world to one another. We honor the Anabaptist value of community discernment; finding answers (and generating more questions) together as a family of faith. GYS is organized to promote this opportunity; to discuss these matters freely in a global setting. In this process, our perspective will expand and we can be influenced and encouraged by other’s experience and points of views. GYS is important because it equips young people with an international exposure and a broader perspective on their faith.
GYS also helps youth to get a voice in their local church and national conference…a global platform usually helps legitimize youth’s concerns when they return to their home congregation or conference. Do you want to come? What do you hoped is discussed at this international forum? What questions do you have? Feel free to comment or ask questions here.
I attended the first GYS, in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. I really enjoyed it, and would love to come to the 2009 GYS/MWC, but I doubt I’ll be able to make it. What with the amount of traveling I’m doing in this upcoming year, I doubt I’d be able to justify making the trip that summer, unless I had some other stuff that I’d be doing in Paraguay (or my parents decided to go, in which case I could go with them). It certainly sounds exciting, though!