Home » The Challenge to Change: celebrating youth in care for the land, St. Ignatius Day 2021

The Challenge to Change: celebrating youth in care for the land, St. Ignatius Day 2021

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The youth of Upper Pulangi gathered on July 31 during the 500th anniversary of the conversion of St. Ignatius. This celebration entitled, “The Challenge to Change” was an opportunity for the youth to reflect. They focused on their role in taking up the challenges of their changing ecological and social landscape amidst the increasing pressures and risks to the land and waters.

1. A section of a video narrating the life of St. Ignatius was translated into Bisaya and was dubbed by one of the students of Apu Palamguwan Cultural Education Center. This helped capture the youth’s interest and imagination as they later participated in a sharing on about Finding God in All Things.

The youth shared about how they see and experience gratitude in their daily life and through their relationship with their family, community, and the gaup, their ancestral land. They shared about even when ‘bad things’ happen we are changed, and can find new and valuable options forward. The challenge is to work with the hope felt and find occasion where it bears fruit.

2. The youth listened to the story of Tokata Iron Eyes, a youth leader and activist from Standing Rock, Dakota. She led a youth movement that successfully put a stop to the proposed route of the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016. Although it was later on approved by the Trump administration, she, along with her community continues to fight against its operation that poses serious threats to the water security of their indigenous land.

Drawing inspiration from Tokata’s leadership, participants of the gathering also talked about their own role in in asserting the rights and responsibilities of Indigenous Peoples and in protecting and caring for their land. The youth reflected their contributions in forest and water regeneration and their continuous efforts to improve their language skills in English so that they can speak for themselves and be able to express their concerns and hopes freely and openly with broader groups.

3. In the afternoon, the focus of the discussion was on Laudato Si’ Goals and Culture. The youth presented 7 artworks based on the 7 Laudato Si’ Goals. One of the presenters, shared that he relates most to the Laudato Si Goal of environmental spirituality. He said that his drawing signifies the growth and development that he is going through as a student and an indigenous youth leader. He acknowledged that much like the other youth in attendance during the event, he has much to learn in life and is humbled by the challenges that teach him valuable life lessons.

All of the youth’s drawings represented their own unique expression of environmental spirituality based on their own personal experience of relating with community, land, and culture. There is a silent acknowledgement of how the youth understands what is fundamental in their life – simplicity without vulnerability is harmony, growth cycle and community. The hope lies in seeing the destruction on the one hand the landscape while on the other recognizing more deeply how this is culturally their identity and then stepping forward to say this is what we are doing. This action is seen also as living out the spiritual harmony with which they struggle.

4. The last session was about COP26 and the COP Pilgrimage. The pilgrimage highlights for us why indigenous youth must be a part of the process and discussion for the November COP26 meeting and beyond. The youth shared statements expressing what they want to see happen in COP26 coming from their context and the vision of their community.

The event closed with the awarding of certificates for the different youth training programs including the awarding of certificates for Forest and Water Management Summer Program, Jesuit Worldwide Learning (JWL) Professional Course for Peace Leadership and Leaning Facilitators, and TESDA NCII on Organic Farming certificates and Bamboo Construction Accomplishment.

One of the platforms for youth to participate in COP26 is through the COP Pilgrimage. The COP Pilgrimage is a hybrid physical-virtual global pilgrimage to COP26 that highlights community, spirituality, and change in a journey that connects different initiatives of communities, faith groups, and networks. This is an effort initiated by four communities including Bendum as represented by Balay Laudato Si’.

For the Pulangiyēn youth, this pilgrimage relates closely to their cultural practice of bentela daw sayuda (visiting and sharing). This is a tradition where members of one community visits another to share information about where they may be focusing their farm work, or to provide a service – for example, coming together to build a home for one family.

The youth said that the event on St. Ignatius 500th anniversary of his conversion and beginning of his pilgrimage is the start of their own local pilgrimage as they belong to different communities in Upper Pulangi but have come together to express their commitment for the sustainability of their ancestral land. They understand that they are connected not only through their ancestry and values, but also through their landscape that holds the hope for their future giving them new spirit.

Our steps in preparing for our local pilgrimage:

A focal point of the experience and the context of understanding a pilgrimage is in the landscape, a place often not familiar and where a sense of the sacred is felt to be present. The journey through the landscape is often more important than the destination, the importance is the transformation and resulting consolation. The youth are in search of change, but the change experienced along the way has time and occasion beyond words to see the world anew and our place in it.  The youth are seeking to arrive at a new norm yet they arrive changed and become more open to deeper experience of life. The process of going on a journey is often best done with companions. A pilgrimage is also a metaphor for our life and the learning that we are on our way.

Any of the saints’ life stories is a basis for a pilgrimage and can be reflected upon as they accompany us in our journey. We used St. Ignatius who was crippled by a cannonball and then went on a pilgrimage letting his physical injury transform him spiritually.

  1. Letting our wounds transform us
  2. Sharing the story of youth and community today
  3. Choosing to draw as mode of expression and used the 7 Laudato Si’ Goals to organize our local context and expression of what we are doing in Balay Laudato Si’ 
  4. Identifying where we are coming from and that we are setting out in a journey over the next three months to connect with other youth in Upper Pulangi as we virtually move across the globe to COP where we hope to express something of what we have learned and our collective dream which forms a vision of conversion and a better world

This story was first published on the Apu Palamguwan Cultural Education Center website

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