‘Education is the strongest weapon’
On Saturday, Wilfrid Laurier University hosted its sixth annual Global Citizenship Conference. This year the theme was ‘Unseen and Unheard’.
Krista Boniface, a student at WLU, was the volunteer coordinator at this year’s conference.
“‘Unseen and Unheard’ worked so well because I think we’re really bombarded with social media and everything being so instant. What we tried to do with this conference is [to] really dig underneath the surface value of an update or a status or something that we read in 150 words on Twitter. It needs to be conversations we hold, and a discourse that we have. With ‘Unseen and Unheard’ it was a call to students and the community to engage with these issues and really reveal what’s going on under the surface,” she explained.
There was a global spirit to the conference with students, faculty, citizens and groups from Kitchener-Waterloo presenting, attending and volunteering. Melanie Harvey, an intern at the Laurier Students Public Interest Research Group (LSPIRG), helped organize the conference. There were over 40 volunteers who helped organize and set up the conference.
“A lot [of the people attending] were first and second-year students. We had a student doing their master’s degree present and community members on some of the panels. Some of the panelists are students who are passionate about speaking about the subject with their professors,” said Harvey.
Laurier faculty members Edmund Pries, Alex Latta, Scott Slocombe, Atiana Guia, Christopher Alcantara and Terry Mitchell presented workshops and spoke at panel discussions. Undergraduate and graduate students Mohammad Moniruzzaman, Melanie Harvey and Lulu Marcelino also presented their own workshops and were panelists at the conference.
The workshops covered civil rights, Canada’s role in Chilean energy and mining, djembe drumming, global living in a local setting and migrants. The documentary What Would It Look Like, one of many documentaries produced by the Global Oneness Project, was screened and followed by a discussion. Three panel discussions were presented, with students moderating on the topics of sustainability, issues facing migrants to Canada and aboriginal identity.
Some students were able to attend the conference at no cost through a sponsorship from Laurier’s dean of students, Leanne Holland-Brown. “We went to the dean and explained what the conference was. [She was] really excited about it. They paid for 50 students to go to the conference,” Harvey explained.
The conference ended with a keynote speech from Izzeldin Abuelaish.
Sometimes referred to as ‘the Gaza Doctor’, Abuelaish is a medical doctor from Palestine, the first Palestinian doctor to work in an Israeli hospital.
He dedicated his life to removing barriers to peace after his daughters and niece were killed in Palestine. During his speech, he described the greatest threat to the world as injustice: keeping quiet at injustice, being complacent and allowing people to be humiliated, segregated and dominated.
“Education is the strongest weapon, it equalizes [….] You can do a lot, don’t underestimate the size of your action,” he said.