I left the Better Understanding for a Better World Conference 2015 in Orlando about 48 hours ago. The Conference, where we talked about Global Citizenship, Religious Diversity, and many other things, might have officially ended, but the main part, the “Better Understanding for a Better World” has just begun.
My Name is Jonathan Thurow, I am 18 years old, in Germany registered as a Christian, but actually more of an Atheist.
Before I talk too much about myself, let me briefly explain, what the BUBW actually is.
The “Better Understanding for a Better World” is a 5 day long international and –cultural Conference for young students from all around the world who are participating in an exchange year. The Conference gives these possible future leaders of tomorrow the unique opportunity, to discuss about and learn from other cultures, as well as to clarify misconceptions, which are often a reason for conflicts and a lack of respect.
Led by volunteers with different backgrounds and religions, participants will also have the chance to visit different places of worship and to talk to representatives of all three Abrahamic religions.
The BUBW emphasizes Global Citizenship, Cultural & Religious Diversity, and leadership skill. Or, to use a quote from the official website, the Conference mission is to “facilitate mutual understanding and appreciation between students from diverse regional, economic, social, religious, cultural and ethnic backgrounds.”
To attend the Conference, I composed an Essay where I try to outline the importance of cultural exchange, and exactly this cultural exchange took place at the BUBW. It showed me that on the one hand, the world is, compared to the universe, just a small dot, and we are all an even smaller part of it.
On the other hand, it doesn’t mean that our actions and behavior cannot change anything, it is the exactly opposite: The way to a Better World is, as the name of the Event already reveals, Better Understanding. And where does it start? It starts with us, with us all, every one of us, and the BUBW Conference is the perfect place to experience the significance of better understanding, and that it can lead to something wonderful!
My point of view about religion has always been very critical, and before the conference I was pretty sure that I was quite enlightened about what is happening in our world.
Now, after the Conference, I realized that “I know that I know nothing”. Although the Greek philosopher Socrates stated this about 2400 years ago, the World, this extremely small spot in the universe, is still fighting bloody wars. Wars about who has “the right God”, the “superior race”, the right to use resources. Basically about: Who is “right”, who is “wrong”.
The BUBW gave me and about 50 other exchange students from all over the world the great opportunity to meet people from all these different, and unfortunately often battle-scarred countries. People from Ukraine, Kosovo, Israel, Palestine, and many more. Muslims, Christians, Atheists. Separated from each other for so many various reasons, but still united. United through the shared belief in humanity, in Global Citizenship, in the Hope to make the world a better and more peaceful place.
These 5 days at the BUBW-Conference in Disneyworld, the “most magical place on earth”, is not comparable with a normal trip somewhere. It was not just about enjoying ourselves with riding rollercoasters and eating waffles that look like Mickey Mouse. It was a program filled with presentations, performances, videos, discussions and the visit of a mosque, a synagogue, and a church.
All this was fortunately sponsored by the Department of State, and led by the Founder of the “Civilizations Exchange and Cooperation Foundation” (CECF), Imam Mohamad Bashar Arafat and his lovely family. At this point it is important to mention, that he didn’t lead the conference as an Imam, but as a warmhearted global citizen who wants to support my generation, the future leaders of tomorrow, to achieve the goal of a Better World through better Understanding.
Although every one of us experienced the past days differently, they had an important impact on all our lives. We shared our culture, we listened to others, we discussed about conflicts, we learned, and we removed misconceptions.
At the beginning we were strangers, based on the different governments back home sometimes even enemies, people you shouldn’t be with.
Today, we are friends. Israelis & Palestinians, Russians & Ukrainians, Muslims, Christians, Atheists. Almost 30 different Nationalities from four Continents, speaking dozens of different languages. We are all standing side by side, no matter what race, nationality, religion, gender, gender preference, or what else might be a difference, aware of the responsibility we all have, the responsibility to achieve a Better Understanding for a Better World.
One of my new friends, the 16 years-old muslim Moroccan Houssam Metni wrote: “Exchange students, leaders at their young age that will make a change in the world.
We are only 0.000000001% of the population of this world, but we are capable to bring the world the understanding it needs. Why would that be impossible if you look at people from countries that are considered “enemies” or “rivals” enjoying themselves and having so much fun with each other? Aren’t we all humans?”
Danke! Teşekkürler! Дякую! شکريا! Terima kasih! Рахмат
To everybody who wants to participate at a BUBW Conference: The next BUBW will take place on April 22nd to April 26th in Baltimore, Maryland and is open for International Exchange students and American High School Students!
For more information about the BUBW Baltimore, check out this page: http://www.cecf-net.org/downloads/bubw/2015-BUBW-Baltimore-Flier.pdf
For more information about the BUBW in General, please visit one of the following pages:
Article by Jonathan Benedict Thurow