AYUDH Europe: Gathering for the first time after COVID-19
Youth come together to seek positive change in a world that faces the effects of a pandemic, an advancing climate crisis, and an unstable geo-political sphere.
July 05, 2022 - Germany
More than 200 people in Europe traveled to the MA Center in Germany to take part in AYUDH Europe’s first physical gathering in three years. This was the 18th Annual European Youth Summit, with the last two resourcefully held online after COVID-19 hit. But to be able to meet in person was a substantial support and relief for members of our youth chapter.
The summit had the privilege to welcome Swami Amritaswarupananda, the Vice-Chair of the Mata Amritanandamayi Math, who arrived from Amritapuri to join the event. His words were of great inspiration to all those assembled, especially as he shared how grateful he was to attend once again.
“At the very outset, I must say that I really missed being with you during the last couple of years while the pandemic haunted the world. I always looked forward to this wonderfully festive and inspiring occasion where we could reconnect, and I could enjoy your energy, enthusiasm, and dedication,” said Swamiji.
Later, he explained how in his youth he had many insecurities and anxieties, but then he found Amma and awakened to a true direction for his life.
“Before meeting Amma, I was just a young man hanging around with people, with friends. Cutting my classes. That was me.... But there was also a longing within me. Something. Clearly it was love. I knew that. It’s not just the love we see in the world or we experience in the world. It’s a higher love. A greater love. Purer love. I was looking for that.”
Participants from more than 23 countries discussed the theme of ‘The Power in You(th): Recover, Regenerate, Revive'. The event took place from June 28th until July 3rd, 2022, with the financial support of the Erasmus+ Youth Program of the European Union.
“This year's summit has brought me so much hope and faith for our future. I felt connected with other youth who are also striving to make a positive change on a local and global level,” said Sarah Aguilera, Youth Coordinator of the summit.
“I feel that is sometimes hard in today's world to find a place where we can truly connect and feel empowered. This summit has been a refuge for expression, connection, and growth on so many levels. I have learned that all power resides within us and we are all entitled to make a positive change.”
AYUDH Europe was honored to welcome for the first time the Consul General of India in Frankfurt. Dr. Amit Telang, who has been in the post since 2020, graced the gathering and delivered a poignant address on fostering young people’s resilience in global crisis.
He explained despite the fact he is a diplomat, he did not mean crisis in a political sense. Having also worked as a physician, he did not mean medical emergencies. He was addressing a larger sense of crisis at all occasions in life—a crisis of identity. He set this in the context of the values we need to adopt to support each other as global citizens.
“We try to make a difference between something which is black and something which is white. What we don’t appreciate often is that there can be something in between. There is something which is gray,” he said.
“When we talk about global crisis, this crisis is nothing but lack of communication. Lack of appreciation of each other’s position. And sometimes also, not being able to feel the other person’s feelings, appreciate them, and understand what is the different perspective they see, too. And that is basically the root cause when we say there is global crisis. And that communication needs to be re-established.”
The summit was the opportunity for the youth to recover from the hardships they have faced over the last few years and regenerate their passions, skills, and drive to change this world and contribute to reviving the planet. It was an opportunity to reunite and explore the amazing things that happen when people collaborate.
Swami Shubhamritananada, one of the founders of AYUDH Europe, was greeted with a standing ovation before he even began his address. Youth across the continent have appreciated beyond words his mentorship and care over many years. In encouragement of their own abilities, Swamiji began a talk entitled ‘Inner Power of Youth'.
“In fact, power is a state that helps you to be happy, peaceful, and strong however challenging the external situation may be. It is something that gives you the capacity to have the right thought, to say the right word, and to do the right thing at the right time. That is power,” he said, adding that it is an experience that comes through mastery of the mind.
“A truly powerful person lives by design. Not default.... We have certain default settings in our computer, right? But life should not be lived like that. Life should be lead by design. And this is very important. To be able to live life on one’s own terms. Having a vision of life and being able to build your life around that vision.”
Young people across the world feel the effects of recent events much more than any other age group. On a daily basis, they are being forced to face new and rapidly shifting challenges that impact the way they lead their lives. During the summit, the youth were supported to harness this power so that they can tackle the world's problems and find peace and stability within themselves.
"It was extremely important after two years of COVID-19 to enable youth from all over Europe to meet again and share the resources they can find within themselves to face such crisis,” said Dorian Spaak, a former AYUDH member who is now a member of the Board of Directors of AYUDH Europe.“The AYUDH Europe team has been working for more than a year on this event, and it has resulted in a great launching pad to all new activities that are planned in the European countries now."
A special panel took place on July 1st, with the topic ‘Fostering the Resilience of Young People in Global Crises'. The discussion focused on how mental health can be supported through educational systems, policy frameworks, and a spiritual approach to life. The outcomes of the discussions will be summarized in a youth statement which will be disseminated to policy makers in Europe.
In assembling their ideas for the statement, AYUDH was mentored by humanitarian leaders who joined the discussion:
- Swamini Amrita Jyoti Prana, Director of the NGO ETW-France
- Gabriela Wright, Actress, humanitarian and cofounder of ‘Never Alone’, a suicide prevention program
- Mette Bjerkass, teacher and journalist, formerly head of Education in United Nations Association of Norway
- Andreas Hirsch, Advisor in European Youth Policies at JUGEND für Europa, the German National Agency of the EU-Programs Erasmus+ Youth and European Solidarity Corps
“We definitely can get power from outside, and why not? But this is always dependent and it can be not lasting. But there is within each one of us, without any exception, an infinite power. There is an inexhaustible source of energy, of joy, of clarity which is inside us,” said Swamini Amrita Jyoti.
“A seed needs both rain and sun to grow. What we don’t like is the rain, but we need both to grow. If we can welcome both with the same interest, we can learn a lot and we will be able to cross that level which is covering our deep power which is inside. And that power is infinite.”
Other activities of the Summit included talks and interactive sessions with inspirational leaders, workshops for mindfulness and skill development, intercultural exchange, interactive teambuilding activities, and events for sports, meditation, and music.
Many participants expressed their gratitude for the gathering and shared the impact it had on them:
I am going to design my life and surroundings from the heart with satva and see the actions I make with gratitude, knowing they will prosper and flourish to impact awesome change for our future. - Isha
I have learned that we as human beings can be beautiful and contribute good things if we choose this. We have really felt a connection to the Earth and its energies. - Janna
Take responsibilities, take some action, and the power of the youth stands in compassion. - Lena
This week I got to learn resilience, how to accept a situation, especially an uncomfortable one, and move on from it with peace. - Anaelle
The gathering enabled us to learn about people from all walks of life who shared their personal stories and experiences. We felt connected to each other. - Gilla
Young people from Europe will now take part in follow-up National Action Weekends that are planned in six different countries in August and September. A New Year celebration will also take place in Amma’s French Center in Pontgouin from December 26th, 2022 until January 1st, 2023.
For the last 18 years, AYUDH Europe has been organizing a wide array of events and activities in order to integrate and bring forward Amma’s message of love and compassion. Several of these projects have turned out to be outstanding, spontaneously garnering three best practices awards from the European Commission and the Salto network. AYUDH National Groups have also flourished throughout Europe, reaching out to more than 7,000 young people over recent years.