Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Empowering the Saudi Youth for the World

Dr. Khaled Batarfi
So what do we do to rescue our kids from the hell of extremism to the heaven of tolerance, love and peaceful coexistence?
I always say that solving a problem starts with a good, sincere question. Answers come automatically if you provide an environment of free thought, speech, and press.
Here is a good example. I raised similar questions in my last couple of articles and good answers were given to me on a golden plate.
It seems Dr. Haifa Jamal Al-Lail, dean of Effat College for Girls, and Dr. Ghazi Binzagr were studying the same problem and coming up with creative, practical solutions.
We are members of the International Relations Committee (IRC) of Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI). Our Chairman Amr Khashoggi asked us to think of ways of training our youth on how to communicate, appreciate and project our country and culture. Haifa and Ghazi came back with the following plan:
Saudi Arabian Youth Ambassadors Program is dedicated to creating world-class ambassadorship. It has three basic strategies. One, to instill three identities: An understanding of the Saudi identity, an appreciation of the Arabian identity and the centrality of the Arabic language to it, and a deep admiration and respect for a tolerant global Islamic identity.
Two, to teach basic personal and interpersonal communication skills to guarantee maximum effectiveness of their communication with the world.
Three, to ensure that these programs will move the youths from the local to the global arena gradually and with wisdom (Hikmah).
The plans have three phases. The First Phase is entitled (Safwa) which means “select elite” in Arabic. It is also an acronym for the first letters of Saudi Arabian Future World Ambassadors.
The plan will find, recruit, and locally train Saudi youths to prepare them to become youth ambassadors to the world.
It will also select events that can become the building blocks for the first phase of the Saudi youth international empowerment program. The Second Phase is entitled (Safeer), which means ambassador in Arabic. Here, Saudi youths will be sent to selected parts of the world to participate in visits designed to link them with the world and help them understand how other countries work while also giving them the chance to represent Saudi Arabia to the world.
Selected youths will be sent to a country or two as samples of building blocks that can later become the foundation of Phase Two of the program.
The Third Phase (Majlis) which means “gathering” or “council” in Arabic is dedicated to creating a Saudi/International Youth Council.
The sponsors of such a plan will be ready to help Saudi youths host a first event in Saudi Arabia inviting youths from around the world (or selected countries) for dialogue, exchange, and understanding. If successful, we may choose to institutionalize this effort into a permanent Majlis: The Saudi Arabian Youth Ambassadors Council.
The Action Plan for the First Phase will prepare 30-40 Saudi males and females to be ambassadors. The goal is to instill the Saudi Arabian, Arab and Muslim identities in young Saudi participants by lectures, training, field trips and discussion forums.
Lectures will explore the history, geography, social, economic, and political system of Saudi Arabia. They will also provide brief historical and socioeconomic and political information about the targeted foreign country.
Training will focus on basic personal, interpersonal and diplomatic communication skills and languages.
In the field trips, Saudi participants will visit cities and villages in Saudi Arabia, religious sites and foreign diplomatic missions (embassies and consulates) for the purpose of awakening in the participants a deep sense of purpose and identity.
The plans also call for a small forum for participants with the Saudi foreign minister, Saudi and foreign ambassadors so they learn more about foreign affairs. It will also train them in debating skills and give them practical experiences.
Executing the plan will require strong commitment from IRC members and all related public and private sponsors and parties for the entire program.
Recognition (certificate or trophy) would be given to all youth participants as an incentive to attract them and retain them for the entire program.
Funding should be available through sponsorship and support for processing the three phases required for the whole program. Crucial logistical controls must be in place before the program can be launched.
Selection of foreign country must take place before the program begins.
I congratulated Haifa and Ghazi on a project well done, and I offered to publish it in my column, hoping more interest from concerned parties would give it a head start. We need more of such plans ... more of such planners ... and more of as many enthusiastic participants, helpers and executors.
No problem is too big for a solution. As long as there is a will, there is always a way.

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