Freedom of Religion and Belief Youth Leadership Trajectory: Cameroon

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Cameroon - Over a period of four days, a diverse and engaged group of 32 young leaders or mentors from Boko Haram-affected areas of Cameroon's Far North region came together in the regional capital of Maroua to develop grassroots initiatives aimed at reinforcing human security, religious freedom, and social cohesion in their communities. It was the second in a series of workshops designed to reinforce the capacities of young people and to equip them with the skills and knowledge needed to take a leading role in shaping the world around them.

The workshop was part of the FoRB (Freedom of Religion and Belief) programme implemented by Human Security Collective and Mensen met een Missie together with a consortium of local civil society actors. The young mentors each represent a Local Interreligious Peace Committee (CLIP) dedicated to promoting dialogue and cooperation in fragile communities fraught with tensions in the wake of the Boko Haram insurgency as well as the state response to the crisis.

During the workshop's closing ceremony, 15 grassroots initiatives were awarded a seed grant, and will subsequently begin implementation under the supervision of our partners Dynamique Mondiale des Jeunes (DMJ) who were instrumental in the organization and facilitation of the workshop. Our other partner organizations Conseil des Églises protestantes du Cameroun (CEPCA), Commission Diocésaine Justice et Paix de Maroua-Mokolo (CDJP), and Conseil Supérieur Islamique du Cameroun (CSIC) were all present during the workshop and will play an active role in supporting the youth-led initiatives.

Over the four days of the workshop, the young leaders were able to share their experiences with their fellow mentors, building upon the theme of human security which they had explored in depth during the first workshop last November. As well as working intensively on developing projects, there was also time to hike to the summit of Mount Zokock, play a mixed interreligious football match, and engage in a Q & A session with the mayor of Maroua, followed by a closing dinner and reception.

Since the completion of the workshop, the young leaders have returned home to share the acquired knowledge with their fellow community members, and in some cases, they have already started to implement their initiatives. All projects must be related to the theme of Human Security and inclusivity, and bring together men and women from diverse religious and ethnic groups.

So far, the initiatives launched include a sports tournament linked to dialogue sessions between security forces and communities, communal interreligious tree planting, mapping of herder pathways to reduce land-use conflict, and the rehabilitation of young offenders.  In the coming months and weeks, every CLIP represented in the project will have the opportunity to receive funding for their proposed initiative. We are looking forward to hearing about these projects from this motivated group of mentors during the next workshop, which is planned for November 2021!

Related project: Freedom of Religion and Belief in Cameroon and The Philippines