Coexister – The Youth Interfaith Movement
Coexister, the youth interfaith movement, was founded on January 14th, 2009, after a meeting for peace in Paris, in the aftermath of the crisis that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was going through at that time. Initially, the idea was to hinder the spreading, among the young and through Facebook, of a conflict, which is more political than religious. It all started with 11 young Jews, Christians and Muslims united under the motto ‘Diversity in faith, Unity in action’. Together, they organized the association’s first campaign ‘Ensemble à Sang%’ and saved 150 people’s lives by collecting 150 blood donations. The recently created Coexister group officially became an association, under the 1901 French law (not-for-profit organization), on September 11th, 2009, with the objective of exploring all the dimensions of interreligious contacts among the young. Coexister is now four years old and its members, i.e. young people from all religious backgrounds, act in five fields: dialogue, solidarity, outreach, training, and study trips.
Let us start off with interfaith dialogue. The first dimension of interreligious activity is dialogue, meeting each other. The youngsters get to know each other, try to understand one another’s religion, learn how to discover their own, whilst respecting their similarities and differences.
Then comes solidarity, which is definitely at the core of Coexister’s action. Getting acquainted with one another is pointless if nothing is done afterwards to act collectively, as a citizen and in a spirit of solidarity in order to reach out to members of the society regardless of culture or religion.
Moving onto prevention, schools or universities, but also associations have been massively calling upon Coexister’s members from the very first year of the group’s existence. They have met over 3000 youngsters in order to raise their awareness as to the absolute necessity of a tolerant and multicultural society.
Coexister’s fourth field of action is training. Such a movement requires a strong knowledge base about the religions present in France, a clever attitude in interfaith dialogue and precise skills to implement projects for the under 35s. Hence the development of the first interreligious training course for the young, which will take place in Jambville, the Château attended by French scouts and guides.
Finally, an essential lever to open the youngsters’ minds is travelling. Our trips to Spain last summer and to Israel and Palestine next summer enable us to build friendships between our travellers who experiment living together on a daily basis.
Coexister has 10 groups all over France (in Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Angers, Lille, Sciences Po, Sorbonne, Centrale, Evry and Grenoble) and three hundred young members. Many other groups are in the pipeline and Coexister is really developing fast.