“Solidarity” is defined as unity or agreement, especially amongst people with similar interests. However, over the past year and a half, we have learned that solidarity is much more than a common interest: it is essential.
Pope Francis said it best last April, “As the tragic COVID-19 pandemic has taught us: we can overcome global challenges only by showing solidarity with one another and embracing the most vulnerable in our midst.” To elaborate on the many aspects of solidarity, Canadian Jesuits International (CJI) held an online advocacy symposium for secondary and post-secondary students from October 23 to 24, 2021.
The theme of this symposium was “Solidarity in a COVID-19 World.” There were four main topics of discussion at this event: the pandemic’s impact on forcible displacement and migration; human rights violations and resource extraction; ecological justice and integral ecology; and inequalities that have been exacerbated by COVID-19. The advocacy symposium also included films, networking opportunities, and workshops on topics such as refugee issues, identity, climate change, and how to take action in one’s own community. Speakers included youth leaders, CJI’s partners from the Global South, Jesuits, and leaders of Indigenous communities.
The event also allowed participants to learn, network, and build relationships among participants. In addition, the attendees learned about the work of CJI and its partners through online booths, videos, and interactive displays. I, alongside many other students and teachers from St. Paul’s High School, had the opportunity to attend this enlightening event. This advocacy symposium was eye-opening on various issues faced by people around the globe, as well as potential solutions. For example, vaccine inequity based on wealth and development of nations was a topic that was widely discussed at this event.
Many developed countries, including Canada, have excessively over-ordered vaccine doses, while various others are suffering severe shortages. One of the workshops, hosted by Fr. Charles Chilufya SJ, coordinator of the Africa task force of the Vatican COVID-19 Commission, discussed how critical the vaccine shortage is in the continent of Africa. In fact, of the 7.84 billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine administered globally, only 7.5% have been administered in Africa, despite the continent making up 17% of the world’s population.
These statistics compel Canadians to be grateful for their easy and free access to vaccines. A film was shown at the symposium also depicted the dreadful impacts of mining on water bodies and ecosystems. Thousands of people live near mining operations and a large amount of marine life are poisoned due to contaminants in water bodies. Often, treatment is too expensive.
Further, war and poverty displaced masses all around the world, with many refugees living in inhumane conditions. Children are regularly stripped of the right to an education and instead must take jobs to support their families.
Financial stress has caused young girls and women to become victims of prostitution, and many turn to suicide as a last resort. The information at the symposium made me appreciative of having the right to live in freedom in Canada. The symposium ended with an advocacy training workshop, helping youth to develop proper discussions and action items to work towards solving these issues.
Canadian Jesuits International hosts various workshops, webinars, and symposiums, covering a wide range of topics. I would encourage you to attend. More information is available on the CJI social media platforms.