BY ISN STAFF | March 31, 2015
During Ignatian Family Advocacy Month (IFAM) this past February, students, faculty, staff, and parishioners from Ignatian Solidarity Network’s member institutions advocated for environmental justice, immigration reform, and humane U.S. policy toward Central America. Advocacy efforts ranged from in-district Congressional office visits to signing on to the Catholic Climate Covenant’s St. Francis Pledge. In total over 4,000 people across the country took part in IFAM 2015.
This year more so than ever the Ignatian family engaged the issues from an education standpoint by developing creative ways to integrate advocacy into lesson plans. Teachers from Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School (CRPHS) shared about their experience of integrating advocacy into their Theology class. After discussing the migrant experience of three major religious traditions (Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity) the teachers asked the students, ‘What do borders and fences do?’
The conversations that transpired gave Flannery O’Connor, a theology teacher at CRPHS teacher who facilitated the conversation, “hope for the future.”
In describing the dialogues with students during the exercise, she noted:
“Students commented: “fences keep people out, but also may keep people in” or “borders cause separation, they create the thought of us and them.” I had planned to teach more about immigration policies following this dialogue, but my students took the reigns. Many of my students come from families who have immigrated to the United States. They remembered stories their grandparents and/or parents told them about coming to the United States. A few students shared stories of family members being deported. Other students were not familiar with this issue at all and asked intriguing questions, such as: “So, if a family has been living here for a long time, working hard, and raising their family – the parents can still be deported?”
In other locations across the country, Cheverus High School highlighted the education aspect of advocacy by hosting a movie night focused on environmental justice. Cristo Rey Jesuit High Schools in Baltimore and Chicago, as well as Walsh Jesuit High School hosted opportunities for students to sign advocacy postcards. Parishes and small faith communities nationwide also took the opportunity to mail advocacy postcards in support of humane U.S. policy toward Central America. Creighton University, Rockhurst University and University of Scranton students went beyond national advocacy and met with State Senators. State-specific legislation discussed was driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants in Nebraska, resources for homeless youth in Pennsylvania, and the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Find more resources to continue engaging the IFAM advocacy issues.