The President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, inaugurated the first World Youth Conference on Kindness in New Delhi today (August 23, 2019).
Addressing the gathering, the President said that Mahatma Gandhi was not just a great leader and visionary, he was one who personified certain timeless ideals and values. We could place Gandhiji in a time machine and transport him to any period of human existence and we would find him to be relevant. This is also true of the times we live in. Gandhiji remains extremely relevant to our present day concerns such as need for peace and tolerance, terrorism and climate change.
The President said that the strife and violence that we see in the world today is often based in deep-rooted prejudices. These make us see the world through the binary of “us versus them”. Following Gandhiji’s footsteps, we must let ourselves and our children interact and engage with those whom we tend to define as ‘them’. Greater interaction is the best way to develop a sensitive understanding, which can help us overcome our prejudices.
The President said that education too can play an important role in overcoming our prejudices. We need to evaluate and evolve the premise, goals and structure of our education system. Education needs to go beyond mere literacy. Education must facilitate and challenge the young to search deep within themselves and build their inner strength to sympathize or relate to the suffering of others. We need to educate young people such that they can defy and transcend boundaries of class and race. We need them to be educated and creative to find solutions to entrenched structural injustices and inequities. We need an education that can touch our emotions and our spirits.
The President noted that this Conference has brought together youth leaders from around the world. He said that these youth leaders and millions of young men and women like them have the biggest stake in making our world kind, compassionate and peaceful. He expressed confidence that what the youth leaders learn and experience in this Conference will inspire each one of them to be the ambassadors of kindness for rest of their lives.
The first World Youth Conference on Kindness is being organised by the UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development, Ministry of Human Resource Development with the aim to impart critical competencies (i.e. empathy, compassion, mindfulness and critical inquiry) in global youth to inspire, empower and enable them to transform themselves and build long-lasting peace in their communities. Youth leaders, representing over 27 countries, are participating in this Conference.