For the second year, Alvernia University students and the school’s department of Campus Ministry facilitated an interactive event aimed at offering participants a glimpse of what refugees might experience. “To Be a Refugee” is a simulation in which participants receive an identity card that lists the name, country of origin and background of a typical refugee. The students assume this role for the experience and move around the quad to learn about common problems refugees face when emigrating. Student participants were told disease, inadequate shelter, lack of nutrition and insufficient education for school-age children often riddle refugee camps. To raise awareness about these experiences, the facilitators offered interactive activities. In one of these activities, participants were encouraged to lie down on a tarp the same size as the tents many refugee families might occupy while in resettlement camps. The tarp, 5 feet wide and 7 feet long, could barely fit three people and when told that families with multiple children will often have to inhabit a tent this same size for months at a time- many students were struck.
“To Be a Refugee” was developed by an Alvernia alumna, and hosted for the first time, last year. One difference in this year’s program was that it incorporated a prayer vigil for all those affected by the recent violence at a Pittsburgh synagogue. Those gathered prayed for all who face religious violence and discrimination. This impactful event proved successful again and prompted students to think critically about what they can do to support refugees in their struggles.
On November 15-17 the Peace Studies Program at Manhattan College will be co-hosting an on-campus conference that will center on the “responsibility and roles of universities and other institutions in light of the Global Compact on Refugees emerging from the United Nations.” The network Refugees and Migrant Education (MRE) hosted the first conference in Rome last year. The 2017 program ended with a personal audience with Pope Francis, who recognizes the important role of universities in studying the underlying causes of migration as well as “educating consciences” on how to respond to the issues surrounding migration.
The programming will include leading experts from around the world who will present papers, participate in panel discussions or lead workshop sessions. Keynote speakers from Iraq, the United States, Lebanon, the Holy See and other parts of the world will reflect with participants on how to unite universities and NGOs in providing education and resources to, and about, migrants and refugees.
Along with the Manhattan’s Peace Studies Program, which is one of the oldest of its kind in the United States, the event is being co-sponsored by the Holocaust, Genocide and Interfaith Center and the Catholic Relief Services Faculty Taskforce.
This text offers personal narratives, principles for critical thinking drawn from Catholic social teaching, and opportunities for action from the individual to the international level. Focused on the humanitarian work of CRS throughout the world, Global Migration inspires reflection, provokes discussion and empowers students to respond to today’s greatest humanitarian crisis.
This book is a part of the Faculty Learning Commons, online course materials for use in existing college and university classes to enrich the understanding of pressing issues in light of Catholic social teaching. The latest modules for Fall 2017-Spring 2018 are focused on migration.
Lent is a time of reflection on the Christian journey of discipleship. This year, several Catholic colleges and universities connected learning, praying, and taking action on justice issues to the traditional Lenten practices. As a way of reflecting on the signs of the times, traditional practices of fasting and walking the Stations of the Cross were transformed into experiences of solidarity with those who are marginalized. By offering justice-focused Lenten programming, Benedictine University, Assumption College, and Fordham University connected the observance of Lent with the social mission of the Church.
Over the past two years, Benedictine University has observed Lent through a weekly event called Feast Fridays. The program, sponsored by Benedictine University’s Campus Ministry, engaged students and staff in solidarity with those in need throughout the world. Feast Fridays began through a Global Solidarity Grant, a collaboration between ACCU and Catholic Relief Services that awards funding to Catholic colleges and universities to increase awareness of global injustice and expand student involvement in bringing about change. Each Feast Friday follows a common agenda: The luncheon starts with a CRS Rice Bowl Lenten prayer and then a CRS Kitchen Friday meal, a simple, meatless recipe similar to ones that people living in a country served by CRS commonly prepare and eat. During lunch, participants watch an episode of “A Story of Hope” a video series by CRS featuring the stories of those who have been aided by CRS. Afterward, the audience members reflect together on what they have just learned and how they are called to respond. Feast Fridays work to provide the community with a concrete way to journey through Lent in solidarity with brothers and sisters around the world, inviting the Benedictine community to feast spiritually while fasting physically.
For Benedictine, Feast Fridays created a platform for service and social justice to be discussed and experienced at the same time. The timing of the programming allows faculty and staff to attend, as well as students, building bridges within the entire community. Faculty member Cathy Stablein, commented, “Feast Fridays humbled me and several of my students as we experienced world poverty through taste. Prayers and short videos about Catholic Relief Services’ global service in selected countries gave us a lunchtime community as we scooped an inexpensive international cuisine of cornmeal, rice, lentils, red beans, and greens common to Laos, Colombia, Rwanda, and other countries to fill our ‘rice bowl.’ Water was our only beverage. These ‘feasts’ starkly reminded me of the need to give back, and the wealth of poverty I ignore.”
Feast Fridays were implemented as a way of living out Benedictine University’s Catholic identity. Carrie Roberts, director of campus ministry, connects the programming with that identity, saying, “Our university’s mission statement has a strong emphasis on caring for the other as inspired by the Catholic intellectual tradition. The Feast Friday program offers our BenU community a way to learn from the poor and marginalized and live in solidarity with them.” The pursuit of truth and justice, as drawn from the Catholic Benedictine tradition, is central to Feast Fridays.
Fordham University also addressed hunger and solidarity this Lent, connecting the practice of fasting to the larger issue of food insecurity through a SNAP Challenge. Students who took the one-day challenge were given one meal swipe, the equivalent of $5.70, to purchase food. As students fasted, they were reminded that many people live on that amount every day and challenged to move from sympathy to solidarity. As a follow-up to the day of fasting, the students were moved to action through a service project, preparing sandwiches for a local food pantry and community dining room. The event ended with soup and reflection on their experiences.
In addition to these events focused on food scarcity, the Fordham Office of Campus Ministry expanded its Lenten programming to other issues, including a Day of Penance for Institutional Racism, which featured an interfaith service and an opportunity for individual reconciliation. Students were also invited to learn about the experience of refugees in a Refugee Simulation. Using multimedia resources, students could “walk a mile” in refugees’ shoes on a simulated migrant journey. Following this simulation, the office hosted a film screening of “Salam Neighbor,” a documentary that features the stories of Syrian refugees.
Assumption College, a recipient of a 2016 Global Solidarity Grant, also created Lenten formation surrounding the issue of migration. Reflecting on Lent as a time for discipleship, the campus ministry office drew parallels to the journey of hope that migrants make. Images of migrants who have been served by Catholic Relief Services were displayed on a barren tree in the chapel sanctuary throughout Lent to remind the community of their solidarity with migrant brothers and sisters during Mass. Assumption College also hosted a screening of “The Vigil,” a film that follows a female immigrant, Gina, and fellow undocumented single mothers, Rosa and Maria, who live in fear of deportation. Gina becomes the leader of a vigil to create refuge for the immigrant community in the face of Arizona’s anti-immigration law, which takes her to the U.S. Supreme Court. Following the screening, director Jenny Alexander and film advisor on immigration Alexandra Piñeros Shields hosted a discussion for the campus.
The office of campus ministry at Assumption also incorporated the issue of migration into a monthly program called “Agape Latte,” an event that features various speakers discussing their faith journeys, inviting students to hear a new perspective while having a cup of coffee. March’s “Agape Latte” featured associate professor of Spanish Esteban Loustaunau, speaking on how he integrates his faith into his life within the context of his own immigration to the United States from Mexico. The annual Lenten Stations of the Cross also focused on migration. Participants journeyed around campus stopping at various locations to learn and pray.
In addition to programming focused on prayer and personal testimony, Assumption College held a “Teach-In” on migration to help students learn more about Catholic social thought as it relates to migration. Faculty members and CRS Student Ambassadors hosted sessions using the CRS Faculty Learning Commons, the “I am Migration” awareness campaign, and the CRS “CST 101” video series to help educate the campus community on migration. The Lenten campaign culminated with a Migration Walk, an interactive activity during which participants walked in the footsteps of a typical migrant through different stations around campus.
These Catholic institutions engaged in programming that focused deeply on social issues throughout Lent, conveying that an integral part of the Christian life is grappling with injustice in the world. Benedictine University and Fordham University connected fasting with hunger crises throughout the world, while Assumption College focused on the connection between a Lenten journey of discipleship and the journey of hope that migrants make. These examples show how Catholic colleges and universities use campus programs to promote a greater solidarity with those in need, as Lent reminds us of the need in each of us to grow closer to God.
Camilla MacKenzie is an undergraduate student at The Catholic University of America and the Peace and Justice Intern at the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.
Justice for Immigrants, a campaign by the USCCB and other national Catholic networks in support of immigration reform, is sharing a new story on “Faces of Migration” each week. “Faces of Migration” features refugees who have had an impact on their community.
Read their stories on the JFI website, and check back weekly for new updates.
As part of the Creighton Global Initiative (CGI), Creighton University has partnered with Lutheran Family Services to provide refugee families with aid in resettlement. Students spend their Friday afternoons shopping for necessities for a family migrating to the Omaha area. Setting up an apartment is the beginning of the resettlement process for refugees. This ministry encourages the students to remember the human face of the refugee crisis. One student, Sarah Huddleston, discovered that this service was different than others in the past because “It’s not just packing up my old clothes in a box and dropping them off and forgetting about it. It’s making a decision with the family in mind and trying to think about what you’d want if you were in a strange place, thousands of miles from your home.”
As René Padilla, executive director of global engagement, describes the program “Refugees are our neighbors…When we think of refugees we often hear the call to ‘welcome the stranger.’ And welcoming the stranger is a good first step. But in this increasingly interconnected world, these strangers are our neighbors and we need each other. Our hope is that this CGI project will help Creighton members to work with their refugee neighbors for justice.”
The Creighton Global Initiative is a program committed to expanding global learning by creating opportunities for heightened relationships, experiences and perspectives embracing Jesuit higher education’s centuries-long tradition for building global networks. Read more on this partnership to assist refugee families here.
Next month, join Pax Christi USA at their national gathering to learn strategies to end racial injustice and violence. Titled “Building the Beloved Community: Addressing the Signs of the Times with Bold Conversations Leading to Transformative Actions,” the gathering will take place August 12-14, 2016 in Linthicum, MD.
The gathering keynote speakers include experts such as Lisa Sharon Harper of Sojourners, Adrienne L. Hollis and Kerene Taylor of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, and Rev. Rocco Puopolo, s.x. of Global Youth Mission Services for the Xaverian Missionaries. Bringing together experienced scholars and practitioners, the gathering will be an educational and formative experience.
Hotel reservations are to be made before July 18, 2016. Make your reservations with the discounted rate here and download the registration packet here!
How does your college or university work to end racial injustice? Let us know!