“Youth is the first victim of war; the first fruit of peace”, said King Baudouin I, the late King of Belgium, once.
I remembered this old quote when I read the words of HH Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa yesterday encouraging youth to work towards ‘peace’.
“The youths make up more than half of the world’s population and are armed with science, knowledge, technology and are creative. They also have the ability to change,” he said, equating peace with an industry.
Holding the high offices of the Chairman of the Supreme Council for Youth and Sports, the President of Bahrain Olympic Committee, and the Chairman of the Royal Charity Organization (RCO), Shaikh Nasser, I believe, is the right person to say these words on youth-empowerment for world peace.
He was speaking on Friday, at the opening of the World Youth Conference being held at the University of Bahrain’s Shaikh Abdulaziz Hall in Sakhir.
Hosting this hugely prestigious event which is drawing global attention, is itself a matter of pride for our tiny-island nation.
And the inspiring speech of Shaikh Nasser exhorting young people – to eschew violence and embrace peace – raises our pride even higher.
This three-day conference being organized by the General Organization for Youth and Sport (GOYS) under his patronage is being attended by more than 500 delegates from 33 countries.
But, sadly, elsewhere in the world, we can see that horrible things were – and are – happening.
In Nairobi, Kenya, several terrorists entered a mall – this Saturday – and, in a shooting spree, killed over 39 innocent people and injured 170 others.
In Peshawar, Pakistan, a bomb blast in a church building – this Sunday (yesterday) – while a Sunday mass was going on, has killed over 60 innocent worshippers and injured 120 others.
In Sammarah, Iraq, two bomb blasts ripped through a mosque – this Friday – killing 18 worshipers and injuring some 29 others.
In all likelihood, a majority of those killings must have been perpetrated by young people. It is their strength, agility and passion that evil leaders manipulate and exploit, making the youth victims.
As I write this on Sunday evening here in Bahrain, very far away in the Kenyan City of Nairobi, the gunmen are still laying siege to the mall; and the Kenyan Soldiers and police are still battling them to save the hostages. Several more can die.
Al-Shabaab, an Al-Qaeda-linked militant group based in Somalia, has already claimed responsibility for the deadly attack.
And guess what the name “Al-Shabaab” means?
The full name of the terrorist group is Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen which means “Mujahideen Youth Movement” or “Movement of Striving Youth”. But they are more commonly known as ‘Al-Shabaab’ which means, “The Youth” or “The Boys.”
The purpose of my allusion to the name of the terrorist group behind the ongoing tragedy is to show that it is ‘the youth’ that can make or break the world.
It has always been the youth who have written history – good and bad. And they were always led by leaders – good and bad.
Good leaders can harness and drive the energy of youth into a dynamic and productive work force, which helps in nation-building.
Bad leaders can brainwash and divert the energy of youth into a hate-filled destructive force that tears down the security and economy of nations.
We see both types around us. But, I believe, it is not the leaders, but the followers, the youth, who must make a choice. The right choice.
They must decide who they wish to follow – the hate-mongers or the peace-makers.
They should decide whether they wish to contribute their physical and mental strength and skills for a world that is filled with division and destruction, or for a world that is filled with peace and harmony.
Shaikh Nasser’s opening words to the World Youth Conference in Bahrain are so very true : “People from around the world speak one language. It is the language of peace. They meet at the same table for peace, and seek ways of making peace.
“Everyone is looking for happiness, honesty and stable life. Parents want a prosperous future for their children, while children are looking forward to a life free of war and destruction.“
When we encourage the youth towards becoming nation-builders, we make them victors. Not victims.