Every year on the International Day of Peace, the United Nations calls on the people of the world to remember their common humanity and join together to build a future free of strife. It calls on all of us to observe a day of global ceasefire and non-violence.

Never Again Rwanda (NAR) in collaboration with the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC) today organised a youth exchange with Parliamentarians, legislators and policy makers, to provide youth with a space to express their peace-building needs, initiatives, as well as discuss challenges to peace and how to mitigate them.  For the 3rd consecutive time,  this year NAR gathered around 400 youth from all over Rwanda representing different universities, schools and civil society organizations involved in the promotion of peace. The celebration started with the watering of the peace tree by the officials at the parliament garden as the youth sang songs that mobilize citizens to promote peace, unity, reconciliation, patriotism and hard work.

There were several speakers in attendance; Right Honorable Mukabalisa Dionatille, Speaker of Parliament, lower chamber; Hon. Venantie Tugireyezu, Minister in the office of the President; Hon. Papias Musafiri Malimba, Minister of education; Mrs. Julienne Uwacu, Minister of sports and Culture; Mr. Stephen Rodriques, One-UN representative; Mr. Fidele Ndayisaba’ the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC) Executive Secretary; Mr. Eric Mahoro, the Programs Director at Never Again Rwanda (NAR).

Honourable Tugireyezu Venantie, Minister in the office of the President of the Republic of Rwanda was happy to gather with the youth since they are the future parents and need to instil the right attitude for the future generations especially concerning peace; “We cannot replace peace with anything. We tasted a situation where there was no peace, and we know what it feels like. We also tasted the situation where there’s peace, and we are feeling it,” she said, before inviting the Speaker of Parliament, Chamber of Deputies, Right Honorable Mukabalisa Donatille, to address the audience.

In her official opening remarks, she mentioned that Rwanda’s unique testimony about the absence of peace for a long time gave us an experience and always makes us think each day that there’s a lot we can do to make our people better; she emphasised that Rwanda has experienced both peace and war and therefore the citizens understand the difference between the two scenarios”, regarding youth, she mentioned that “it is through the youth that we can achieve all this given that they make the majority of our population. We undoubtedly believe in them and their efforts to build a better future for our country”.

Furthermore, the values of Rwandans include protecting the peace that they enjoy today by fighting divisionism. She welcomed youth at the parliament being their house, be it in such meetings or for other parliamentarians sessions.

After the opening remarks, there was a presentation by Dr. Jean de Dieu Basabose, an expert on peace sustainability and a documentary film “Intambwe igana ku mahoro” put together by Never Again Rwanda, showcasing the path to peace.

A plenary session was then held questions and comments from the youth, followed by answers from the panel of experts, government officials and civil society members. The major issue raised by youth was the need to invest in peace centred and critical thinking education as a priority.

It was discussed that the lessons on peace start at the family level since that is the foundation through informal education, which is going at a later stage to be complemented by formal education.

Among the key recommendations from the exchange, youth committed themselves to become peace ambassadors and fight Genocide ideology, as well as combat affecting them such as child trafficking, drug abuse and terrorism. They called for the consideration of peace studies and critical thinking in the formal education curriculum, and for a partnership at all level to provide youth with opportunities to engage in peace building initiatives.,

As co-organiser, Mr. Ndayisaba Fidele, the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC) Executive Secretary encouraged the youth to focus on being peace actors since they are the intra generation bond. Eric Mahoro, the Programs Director at Never Again Rwanda (NAR) appreciated the Rwanda Parliament for consistently hosting the youth on the International Day of Peace for 3 consecutive years. He reiterated that the platform gives the youth a chance to interact with the parliamentarians, to give their ideas and to influence relevant policies as well.

In his closing remarks, Honourable Papias Musafiri Malimba, Minister of Education stressed that the culture of peace is crosscutting and has to be embedded in the national curriculum of education as a culture, not a detached course. He called on youth to strive for peace from their families first.

The youth-parliamentarians exchange ended with the youth singing more peace songs as they interacted and exchanged ideas.