Monday, 30 November 2015

Seven Important Takeaways From the Global Citizenship Summit

Thank you to Wade Fleming, who serves as our Intercultural Communication Award Coordinator at Lambton College, for the following guest post about the Global Summit.

As keynote speaker Leo Johnson explained, “global citizenship cannot be discriminant or conditional.” To be true global citizens (knowledge-seekers, listeners, learners, and helpers), we should try to understand everyone, consistently making informed decisions and seeking true understanding before we judge. We need to understand the “long-term implications” of such things as online-activism, and seek knowledge even when it is difficult, or when we face pressure from others to conform to some uninformed opinion.

The very first thing that both keynote speakers, Leo and Gilad, did was thank everyone who tirelessly worked together to make the event possible. I think it is important to remember that we can learn from simple, understated acts.

The choice of whether or not to wear a niqab is just that: a choice. Rezan Mosa and Aruba Mahmud, both Canadian-born Muslims, explained that they were not forced into wearing a niqab (covering all except the eyes, in Rezan’s case) or a hijab (a head-scarf, covering the hair, in Aruba’s case). In fact, Rezan explained that the person who expressed the most resistance to her decision to wear the niqab was her father. However, she chose to do so, in an effort to bring herself closer to God. Rezan did, however, explain that not all women get the choice, and that any time an act of worship is forced upon someone, it is no longer an act of worship. Aruba spoke further of how, as a woman practising Islam, she is not oppressed. She used art and humour to get her point across, explaining, “I cover my hair, not my brain.”

The goals of the global citizens include listening, learning, and understanding. As emcee Amy Weiler explained, global citizens should seek knowledge and be passionate about positive change.

Conversely, the goal of the global citizen should not be to solve other people’s problems. As Leo explained, “in order to solve my problem, you need to first listen to my story, and even then, you might need instructions from me.” We should think critically about where our money is going (when we support charities), what effects we are really causing (when we try to help), and whether we are helping at all (when we take to social media).

First Nations Elder Marie Short delved into the idea that we must first understand ourselves before we can help others, but also indicated that it is important to ask other people questions like, “who are you?” Marie believes that people are open to answering such questions, and we should take the time to think about how we might respond, if asked. Reiterating Marie’s sentiment, Gilad explained that people’s stories deserve to be shared, and that conversation is needed to create a better world and inspire change.

We are all in this together. This sentiment was reinforced by many of the evening’s speakers. Amy examined how, despite any perceived differences, we all live in “one world.” While speaking passionately about the Syrian refugee crisis, Lambton College President Judy Morris appealed to our shared humanity, explaining, “I stand before you as a human,” rather than as a Canadian, a woman, or any other label.

Gilad explained that his family, who are Jewish immigrants, were hesitant to support his dedication to global human rights issues; they struggled to comprehend how he could care so deeply about people who are not Jewish. Gilad’s response was that “it’s not a matter of being Jewish— it’s a matter of being human.” 

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