Addressing the daunting issue of unemployment among Egyptian youth, the World Council of Churches (WCC) collaborated with the International Labour Organization (ILO) in holding a dialogue on "Egyptian youth and the right to decent work" in Cairo. The event on 15 May brought together participants from both Christian and Muslim backgrounds.
The event focused on the impact of unemployment among Egyptian youth and how the WCC and ILO can support partners in Egypt in further promoting decent work for youth, which includes initiatives for creating jobs, guaranteeing rights at work and promoting social protection and social dialogue.
According to a recent report from Egypt's Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics, youth constitute more than 70% of those unemployed in the country, with the national unemployment rate more than 13% at the end of 2013. The report also states that 84% of the unemployed, including youth, had high school and college degrees.
The event which was led by Bishop Yohannes of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt and Dr Ali Gomaa, former Grand Mufti of Egypt, invoked varied reflections on these issues from representatives of both Muslim and Christian development organizations, non-governmental organizations as well as journalists and academics.
Reflecting on the role of faith communities in promoting decent work, Pierre Martinot-Lagarde, the ILO's special adviser for socio-religious affairs, said, "The ILO shares with faith communities the values and ethics of human dignity."
"While working on the decent work agenda together we are also advancing peace because we believe there is no peace without social justice," said Martinot-Lagarde.
These views were affirmed by Dr Nigussu Legesse, the WCC's programme executive for advocacy for Africa, who stressed that promoting social dialogue can play a significant role in increasing the productivity, development and economic progress of a country.
Legesse added that this meeting in Cairo is important, especially in continuing the WCC's efforts in promoting decent work and social justice, integral parts of the "pilgrimage of justice and peace" - a call from the WCC 10th Assembly in late 2013.
Bishop Yohannes in his address at the event, appreciated interfaith collaborations in responding to issues relevant to Egyptian youth and decent work. Making a biblical reference to Psalm 133, "... how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!", Yohannes said it is "indeed a positive step when Muslims and Christians dwell together in love and genuine partnership to work for the Egyptian youth".
Dr Gomaa echoed these views, saying that "our common goal is human development". He referred to verses from sūrat l-māidah in the Quran, which he said "instruct us to 'cooperate in righteousness and piety'". He said, "this meeting is a reflection of God's will."
BLESS, the Bishopric of Public, Ecumenical and Social Services, a development wing of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt, and Misr El Kheir, an Egyptian organization working for human development, partner organizations of the WCC and the ILO, agreed to hold further meetings about Egyptian youth and decent work. Following these meetings, projects will be developed aimed at creating work opportunities for youth in Egypt.
Greetings from Pope Tawadros, Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church and Dr Sheikh Ahmad Muhammad Al Tayyeb, Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar were brought to the event.