CJI’s annual Youth 4 Others – Social Justice Day was held on April 24. This year’s theme was “Youth in solidarity: A bold call for action.” More than 70 students and educators from 8 schools in the Greater Toronto area and Hamilton, and from Camp Ekon, participated in the event.
Keynote speaker Lola Moussa, from Syria, shared her experiences of war in her home country and the things she has learned about life and human dignity in the process. It was a powerful presentation. Lola also talked about her work with Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in her home country of Syria and what a difference JRS makes in peoples’ lives. More recently Lola worked with JRS in Lebanon, where she was the Regional Programs Officer until coming to Canada in February 2018.
“Life, war, and working with JRS taught me to be a better person,” Lola told the Social Justice Day students, “a person who isn’t afraid to say ‘yes,’ a better listener who sees people and cares about them, a person who isn’t afraid to say ‘I know I can’t do everything but I can do something.’… I learned that if I need peace I have to find my peace within, and bring it with me everywhere I go. Just because someone disagrees with me doesn’t make him my enemy … there can be no liberation for one of us if the other is not free.”
Students were also able to participate in morning and afternoon workshops on a variety of topics, including:
- the grassroots education work of Fe y Alegría in Latin America and Africa, led by Isabel Perez-Doherty
- the solidarity work of students at St Mary’s in Pickering, led by Youssef Iskander and Okessa Monah
- the work of Jesuits in Darjeeling, India, led by Oshish Tirkey SJ
- the meaning of vocation and working with migrants in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, led by Jean Francky Guerrier SJ
- solidarity with people in Syria, led by Lola Moussa.
In between sessions, students were encouraged to tweet about the day and what they were learning and to see social media as a tool for change. At the end of the day, students were also urged to think about what actions they can undertake for social justice in their own schools and communities. In particular, the example of Lola Moussa and of workshop presenters and fellow students offered ideas for concrete actions and provided inspiration and energy for taking the first small steps. It was a good day!