On 25 April 2019, the sixth annual Youth 4 Others (Y4O) Social Justice Day was held in Toronto. It was the largest meeting to date with 85 students from area high schools participating. The keynote speaker was Emiliano Martínez, who recently came to Canada from Mexico together with his wife and son. He shared experiences of living and working in the border city of Juárez, where gang violence and insecurity are commonplace and where personal threats led to his family’s decision to claim refugee status in Canada.
Emiliano later shared more of his story in a workshop. Other workshop leaders included Sr Petite Lao from the Philippines, Prossy Nambatya from Uganda, Fr Roshan Kiro SJ from India and three student leaders from St Mary’s Secondary School in Pickering, Ontario – Marissa De Cristofaro, Maddie Frechette and Alessandro Patlan.
A highpoint of this Y4O Day was a Skype conversation with Fr Ismael “Melo” Moreno SJ in Honduras, who explained what pushes people suffering human rights violations to leave Honduras and also what gives hope to those who remain behind to struggle for justice and peace.
CJI’s Y4O program is inspired by Fr Pedro Arrupe SJ, who asked us to be “men and women for others.” It aims to encourage and equip high school students in Canada to be “youth for others.” The Y4O Social Justice Day is an annual highlight event of the Y4O program. It brings students together from up to half a dozen schools for a day of reflection and solidarity. A keynote speaker and a variety of workshops led by Jesuit and lay partners with experience in Africa, Asia and Latin America help young people to see how faith leads to action on the frontiers of society, creating a more just and peaceful world.
Last year was special not only because it marked the fifth anniversary of the Y4O program but also because it was the first time CJI organized two Social Justice Days. The first was held as usual in April for students in the Greater Toronto Area. The second was held in November at Mount Mary Retreat Centre in Ancaster, Ontario. The latter Y4O Day drew 70 students from 4 schools in the Hamilton area. Fr Mario Serrano SJ of the Dominican Republic was the keynote speaker. It was a successful first Y4O Day outside the Toronto area, part of what we hope is a growing movement of youth in Canada.