“At the root of every onion lies a kernel. Eritreanism should be the kernel to our identity. Like an onion, individuals consist of several layers. These layers include your religion, your job, your hobbies, etc.”
By Jerusalem Bereket
The young leaders of the Eritrean diaspora have done it again. From early morning lectures to late night guayla’s, it has been a memorable experience for those who attended. The 8th Annual Young People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (YPFDJ) Conference was held in Ontario, Canada and has been one of the most successful conferences thus far. A group of nearly 300 Eritreans gathered from opposite ends of the world; from Seattle to Switzerland. The smaller crowd made the conference intimate and allowed individuals to network on a more personal level.
The annual YPFDJ conference is a place for youth to network and provides a platform for young Eritreans from all over the world to voice concerns and inform co-existing chapters of achievements accomplished throughout the previous year. It is a great opportunity to learn from the experience of our peers, as well as the experience of our elders. We were able to debate and work on real-world problems together; problems that affect our communities around the world, and especially our people in Eritrea. Specific topics of the group discussions were the role of youth in mekete, the seven priorities of nation building, and the challenges and successes of YPFDJ North America. Break-out discussions were more frequent than previously held conferences and these allowed the young Eritrean leaders to voice their opinions and ask questions pertaining to subjects they felt were important such as historical discussions, current events, and future projects under construction.
Several prominent leaders of Eritrea discussed the social, political, and economic characteristics of Eritrean youth living in the Diaspora. Guest speakers and their presentations included: Zemhret Yohannes: Lecture on Organizational Development, Dr. Ghidewon Abay-Asmerom: United Nations as a Tool of Western Dominance & Neo-Colonization, Elias Amare: Developing a National Literature for Nation Building, & Sophia Tesfamariam: Human Rights as a Tool of Manipulation. Collectively there was a common theme: understanding Eritrea’s ideology, holding true to our values/beliefs, and not allowing negative influences to infiltrate that bond.
During one of the break-out sessions, Dr. Ghidewon Abbay Asmerom made an excellent analogy of Eritreans and onions:
At the root of every onion lies a kernel. Eritreanism should be the kernel to our identity. Like an onion, individuals consist of several layers. These layers include your religion, your job, your hobbies, etc. Although we have these numerous layers, our core is what is most important. It is our foundation and it is what stabilizes us as a people. Our layers should be inferior to our core and not override our identity. Our jobs and hobbies do not define who we are; therefore these things cannot be used as a tool to separate us as a people. This is why Eritreans are able to co-exist peacefully regardless of ethnicity, political affiliation, religion, etc. This is one of the many reasons we are a “threat of a good example.”
As the conference came to what seemed like a quick ending, cultural shows were performed and music from Korchach and live bands played throughout the night. During the closing ceremony, a flag was passed to the next state to host the conference as a symbolization of passing the torch. It lies in the hands of the California chapters to organize the conference next year and their success is inevitable. Until then, it is our responsibility as future leaders to take everything we have learned from this experience and previous conferences before this one, and apply it to our daily lives in being upstanding, hardworking, self-reliant Eritreans. Awet N’hafash!