With the United Nations headquarters as their classroom, Lasallian students and educators from across the country gathered in New York City for a three-day teach-in on social change. The Lasallian Convocation on the Rights of the Child provided participants with a unique learning experience on the rights of children and advocacy.
The April 25 to 27 event was part of a worldwide Lasallian effort to establish a culture of action on behalf of the rights of children. To this end, the Lasallian educational community in the US and Toronto, which consists of more than 100 educational ministries and over 67,000 students, is taking concrete steps to integrate service activities in the schools with justice-oriented advocacy.
“The convocation was inspiring in its call to action,” said Bryan Linehan, a student from Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul, MN. “Too often young adults are merely spectators of the world around. I think we can all draw hope from how we broke this mold at the convocation and united so many young people in a passion for human rights and friendship.”
Lasallians have joined thousands of other Americans in their call for universal ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which was adopted in 1989. The Convention emphasizes the rights of children to survival; to develop to their full potential; to protection from abuse, neglect, discrimination, and exploitation; and to participate in family, cultural, and social life.
Keynote speakers at the convocation included the Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, who spoke about how to connect with politicians and policymakers in advocating for change, and human rights activist and former UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Jimmie Briggs, who spoke of the injustices to children which he witnessed first-hand as a reporter.
“It was an amazing experience that has really changed how I view many situations within my own life and how I will be able to work as a Social Worker in the future,” said Kaitlyn Roche, a Social Work major at La Salle University in Philadelphia, PA.
General Councilor Brother Robert Schieler, FSC, called the convocation a huge success that will lead to increased awareness and concrete actions for children in need. In an interview by the Vatican Radio, Brother Schieler said that while programs and laws are in place to protect children, more needs to be done. “Continuing to educate our students and ourselves and the public of these realities is the first step toward advocacy and then using our numerical strength and the numerical strength of others to collaborate and network with other groups.”
The students were eager to take what they learned home and begin the long-term process of advocacy. Plans for an awareness and education campaign on the rights of the child are already being initiated by some groups.
According to Theodore Kline from Cretin-Derham Hall, “The moment that changed my mind was when we were walking through the UN’s hallway with the Millennium Goals and someone said, ‘what if a thousand years from now our ancestors are walking through a museum and see pictures of poverty and say wow there was poverty!’ that really struck me and challenged me to try and end these problems and make the world a better place.”
The Lasallian Convocation was facilitated by the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools in the United States and Toronto Region in partnership with the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation, Inc. (www.faf.org).