Our Emerging International Leaders programme for international students is creating a movement of young people who are empowered to promote Freedom of Religion or Belief around the world.

After completing the programme, participants are encouraged to work towards more peaceful, open and inclusive societies, in the UK and in their home countries.

Two recent examples of initiatives launched by our Emerging International Leaders alumni are outlined below.

Qazi Zulqurnain, Pakistan
Emerging International Leaders 2017-18
Amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic, Qazi, a young postgraduate student from Pakistan, who completed our Emerging International Leaders programme on Freedom of Religion or Belief in 2018, has launched a ‘global movement in positivity’ for young people around the world, with the strapline of ‘We are In This Together’.

He has been collecting positive stories about how young people were responding to the pandemic to help strengthen connectivity and social cohesion in their home countries, and sharing them via a platform he had previously launched via social media in 2019. Qazi took part in our programme whilst completing an MA in Public Administration and Public Policy at the University of York.

A year later, inspired by his experiences at Cumberland Lodge, he established the Youth Center for Research platform, @YouthCenterforResearch, a youth-led initiative with international reach, aiming to encourage and engage young people in research, dialogue, policy analysis and advice, on a range of socio-economic and political issues affecting Pakistan.

This Center has a cross-sector ethos, working across academic, business, and a range of organisations and institutions, to ‘bridge the gap between knowledge and policy, and enable youth-spearheaded sustainable development’.

Qazi has temporarily adapted this platform to host video messages of hope from around the world, to inspire young people to work towards positive change in their communities. These videos can be accessed here.
In autumn 2019, the Youth Center for Research ran a Summer Research Programme for 25 students from different universities across Pakistan. Qazi arranged the participants into groups based on thematic areas drawn from the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, each mentored by a Research Adviser from the UK, South Korea, India, Bangladesh, The Gambia or Pakistan itself. Discussions were carried out either virtually or in-person.

‘The Cumberland Lodge experience was extremely important in motivating me for this. Firstly, the nature of discussions carried out during the Emerging International Leaders programme, and the structure of the programme itself, motivated me to design the Youth Center for Research around the notion of research-driven discourses, through youth-expert dialogue.

'Most importantly, two of the mentors who helped me to establish the Center and deliver its first Summer Research Programme - Nazneen from Bangladesh and Abhishek from India - were fellow participants in the Emerging International Leaders programme at Cumberland Lodge.’

Before the outbreak of COVID-19, the Youth Center for Research was selected for inclusion in the AMENDS programme run by students at Stanford University in the USA. AMENDS seeks to identify the most promising ‘youth change assets’ from across the Middle East, North Africa and the USA, to help people learn from one another and connect with global leaders and resources.
Qazi is also involved in a collaborative research project entitled, ‘How can Sufism, aligned with pluralistic cultural ethos, combat violent religious extremism in Sindh?’ Sindh is a province in Pakistan that is closely associated with Sufism.

‘It was particularly through the Cumberland Lodge programme on religion or belief that I became interested in this issue. It is an area of policy and research that is particularly sensitive and contentious in my home country.’

Dee May Tan
Emerging International Leaders programme 2016-17

Dee May was a Chevening Fellow from Malaysia, who took part in our Emerging International Leaders programme whilst working towards a Master's in multimedia journalism at the University of Westminster.

Conversations she took part in at Cumberland Lodge inspired her to launch Malaysia's first biannual, independent food culture publication, Plates magazine, exploring the human stories behind the food we eat, 'one dish at a time'.

Dee May uses the magazine as a forum for highlighting issues relating to human rights and freedom of religion or belief.

In ‘A Grainy Gamble’, a feature on rice farming in Malaysia, she highlighted the impacts of the state’s ‘Bumiputra’ law, which requires farmers from ethnic and religious minority communities to pay higher licensing fees than those of the majority (‘Bumiputra’) community.

In ‘Hidden Figures’, she highlighted the contrasting experiences of three people from different cultural backgrounds and belief systems, and their special relationships with rice. An upcoming feature on durian fruit will also shed light on issues of land rights and heritage, which are intimately connected with religion and belief.

‘I can’t express the amount of gratitude that I have for the team who led this programme. The conversations with peers set the gears in motion. This magazine is one of the more tangible products of what this safe space for conversations has provoked and inspired. Red tape and barriers still exist in my home country, but I hope that our common connection with food will show us that we are more alike than different.’