In February, 40 delegates (6 adults and 34 youth) from churches all over New York State traveled to New York City for the Annual High School Youth Leadership Forum.  Sixteen (16) youth from Westminster, First Presbyterian Church in Albany and Bethany Presbyterian Church, Menands, NY attended.  Many with scholarship assistance from the Presbytery.

The program was offered through the United Methodist Women’s Seminar Program on National and International Affairs.  Seminars took place in the Church Center right across the street from the United Nations and the focus for the program this year was “Islamophobia.”  The youth spent the day in seminars created especially for youth involving speakers, film, activities, and lively discussion and then toured the UN building on Wednesday.

See what our Youth had to say below in both written as well as video reflections.

The UN trip was full of wonderful experiences, from staying in a Manhattan hotel which was my first thanks to first Presbyterian Church, to learning about different cultures and especially about the Muslim community, how they are not different from Christians, and how we should put a stop to islamophobia. I just want to thanks the church for giving such a wonderful experience . ~Arahtu, First Presbyterian Church, Albany, NY

Going to the UN has always been a dream of mine so going on this trip was a great opportunity for me. I learned a lot about Islam and the micro-aggressions that happen against muslims every day. I made a lot of good friends and have great memories from the trip. ~Sydney, Bethany Presbyterian Church, Menands, NY

The trip to the UN and NYC was really fun. I learned so much and got to see a lot of cool places. I liked learning about Islam, a religion I didn’t know much about. It was really interesting. I now know more about being a Muslim in the USA. Before participating in this program, I thought Muslims had very similar experiences in the community, though I now know better. I really liked meeting new people and sightseeing around Times Square. I really liked the trip!!!! ~Ingrid, First Lutheran Church, Albany, NY

This year’s trip in the UN in NYC was a lot of fun. Before this trip, I had a very minimal idea of what Muslims face in this country. The talks and activities were very eye-opening, and now even as I walk through my high school I sometimes see Muslims being treated differently. The sightseeing in Times Square was also really fun, as I have never spent an extended period looking around NYC before. The play we went to, “Come from Away”, was very well done as well. I thought it was somewhat fitting for this conference because the openness of the town of Gander to let the planes in is a lot like how we have to treat the Muslims in this country that are being oppressed by the public, and especially by the current administration. ~Amelia, First Lutheran Church, Albany, NY

I very much appreciated the chance to participate, as a chaperone, in the NYS Council of Church’s UN study trip on Islamophobia. Hearing from practicing Muslims about the joys of being Muslim and the challenges of practicing their faith in America increased my sensitivity to the sorts of changes we can make in our communities to be welcoming to Muslims. I was impressed with the range of activities in the seminar, from informative presentations, to interactive theater games, to the opportunity to hear from people whose line of work is breaking down animosity between Pakistanis and Americans through study trips between the two countries. Sightseeing in the evenings and the Broadway play we saw, “Come from Away,” were also highlights! ~Anne, Chaperone, First Lutheran Church, Albany, NY

The UN trip was a very enlightening experience. Most just sympathize for minorities, in this case Muslims, from afar. This trip gave us a chance to hear stories from primary sources. We learned a lot about the lives of Muslim Americans in this country and how the daily experiences they face are far different from most of the rest of this country. The trip opened our eyes to what is really going on. Also getting a chance to see many people working together to bridge the gap between different religions to make peace in this world was truly great. I’m really glad I got a chance to go on this trip because it really taught us a lot.  ~Robert Quaye, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Albany

During our New York City trip, I experienced a lot of new things (such as taxi drivers every five steps!) I also met some really nice new friends who I have a lot in common with. I also learned a lot from the seminars. I learned that Muslims are mistreated more often than they should be. They can be going along their day and suddenly be called names. These names can be friendly to really offensive. People also use stereotypes to decide if others are Muslim. They think of Muslims in prejudiced ways. I don’t want to be like those people. I learned that we can be involved in peaceful protest and use social media to support all different types of people. ~Danny Pfluger, First Presbyterian Church, Albany, NY

Video Youth Reflections from the Annual High School Youth Leadership Forum

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