What does it mean to be a global citizen? How can young people make a positive difference in a world increasingly divided along national, religious, and social lines?
In August 2022 students from around the world convened at the Assembly of the International Association of Jesuit Universities (IAJU), held at Boston College, to explore these questions.
“There is a lot that brings us together”
The conversations in Boston marked the culmination of the IAJU’s Global Citizenship Fellows Program, which brought together 31 students from 19 Jesuit universities in 16 countries to explore the idea and practice of global citizenship over the course of the 2021-2022 academic year. Before connecting in Boston, the fellows met over Zoom for six lively dialogues on critical global topics ranging from climate change to economic development and peace.
T.J. Alcantara, a senior at Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines, was one of three fellows who spoke on a panel in Boston. “The program has been a fruitful and meaningful dialogue for all of us,” he told more than 300 administrators and faculty from around the world.
In this seemingly disintegrating world, we realized that there is a lot that brings us together, be it through advocacy, belief, or philosophy.
The program was sponsored by the IAJU’s Global Citizenship Task Force, chaired by Thomas Banchoff (Georgetown University, USA) and David Kaulem (Arupe College, Zimbabwe), that was set up after the IAJU’s 2018 assembly in Deusto, Spain. At that assembly Fr. Arturo Sosa, S.J., superior general of the Society of Jesus, highlighted the importance of “universal citizenship” for the Jesuit global network of some 200 institutions of higher learning.
“The explosion of Zoom technology during the pandemic has allowed us to connect young people across the Jesuit network in dynamic ways,” says Banchoff. “So many of our students share the commitments to solidarity, the common good, and engaged citizenship – local, national, and global – that animate our colleges and universities.”
Extending the Conversation
In fall 2022 the Task Force plans to integrate the lectures and readings prepared for the 2021-2022 program into a two-week module on global citizenship to be offered to Jesuit institutions around the world. As early as spring 2023, students taking the modules in a given semester would also have the opportunity to engage in Zoom discussions with peers around the world covering the same material, forging a truly global conversation.
This year’s fellows plan to stay in touch beyond graduation. “The exchange of perspectives through this program has helped us to take a more open and critical look at the realities of the world,” Elena Pérez Velasco, a student at Universidad Loyola Andalucia (Spain), told the Boston assembly.
I firmly believe that the colleagues I have had the good fortune to meet during this year will make important decisions in the future.
Watch a video overview of the Global Citizenship Fellows Program and the August 4 panel discussion held at the assembly.