By Emyle Watkins
Pope Francis is quoted with once saying, “Mercy is not easy… it requires courage.” Over the next week, a coalition of clubs will come together with the courage it takes to put mercy in action. Meet Stand in Solidarity Week, hosted by Peace Action Canisius, USA J.U.S.T.I.C.E., USA Diversity, Women and Gender Studies club, and Campus Ministry.
“To me, solidarity is, in essence, mutual respect and understanding. It is showing compassion and being a voice for those who are oppressed,” Lexie Grebenok, from USA J.U.S.T.I.C.E., said.
From Sunday March 26 through Friday March 31, several events will be held on campus to inspire dialogue about contemporary human rights issues and the lives of the marginalized. One of the keynotes of the week will be the construction of a mock wall in the quad.
“The idea of a ‘mock wall’ was to provide an actual physical border to illustrate how so many people around the world are separated by walls, whether they be physical, spiritual or emotional. Rather than building walls and separating people, we want to focus on building bridges and kinship,” Grebenok added.
The week will kick off with a vigil around the mock border wall at 7:30p.m. in the quad, where students will come together to remember the marginalized. Students are encouraged to bring quotes or pictures to decorate the wall throughout the week. Thursday night will also be dedicated to decorating the wall, and there will be tables in the library throughout the week allowing students to create “I stand in solidarity with” posters for the wall.
“It could be ‘I stand in solidarity with people of color,’ ‘I stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community.’ It can be whatever you want it to be, which I think is the great part about the week. It stems from immigration, but it really could be whatever you want to make it to be,” Alie Iwanenko of Peace Action said.
While students are encouraged to decorate the wall throughout the week, the wall will be monitored by Campus Ministry and hate speech will not be tolerated. Before the wall comes down next weekend, there will be a gathering at 11:00a.m. on Friday for reflection.
Monday through Thursday will also feature a film, simulation, and discussions where students will have opportunity for dialogue and learning. Monday features a talk on the future of NAFTA, at 7:00p.m. in Science Hall 1013B, where two labor activists will host a talk about the changes NAFTA needs to be more effective. Tuesday, at 5:00p.m. in Regis, the documentary “Girl Rising” will be screened, focusing on the challenges girls face to receive an education.
Wednesday night will also be a unique experience for anyone involved, as USA Diversity hosts Enlight Night, which will focus on the issues of migration through a simulation and then a discussion. For the discussion, students will be in smaller groups with a professor who will talk about a specific issue of their expertise.
“It’s open to everyone, whether or not you know a lot about the issue. It’s a chance for everyone to come and learn,” Christina Estimé said on behalf of USA Diversity.
The idea to host a Stand in Solidarity week with a mock wall came after Iwanenko and Emily Smith both attended the Ignatian Solidarity Network’s (ISN) University Leaders Summit at John Carroll University last summer. This is where, according to Iwanenko, they first realized that a lot of other colleges and universities were taking a stance on immigration. Many of them had also done a mock wall.
Then, in the fall after a group of students attended the ISN’s Ignatian Family Teach-in for Justice, the interest rose in doing a human rights week based on immigration and helping marginalized groups.
“A lot of the feedback from the students was [that] we want to see more of this on our own campus,” Iwanenko added.