Ken Hackett, president of Catholic Relief Services, and author and former boy soldier Ishmael Beah spoke at Cabrini’s 50th Anniversary Founder’s Day on Tuesday, Feb.19.
Cabrini’s relationship with CRS has flourished in the last three years, as Cabrini has become one of four Catholic colleges partnered with CRS.
Hackett spoke of the challenge of becoming dedicated to creating global solidarity.
“Solidarity will transform the world,” Hackett said. “This vision statement is ‘fairly utopian.’ It is probably beyond our reach in our lifetimes, but it is an idea we strive for.”
Hackett praised Cabrini for being the first college in its state to make community service part of its curriculum for undergraduate students where they learn and practice moral and social responsibility.
Both speakers explained how important it is for students to connect to the rest of the world. Their encouragement was echoed by senior communication major, Yadira Toledo in her introduction to Ishmael Beah.
“Coming to Cabrini three and a half years ago, I didn’t travel many miles from home for my college education, but in many ways, my experience here has introduced me to the world- not as a spectator, but as a participant, an agent of change.” Toledo is a CRS Fair Trade ambassador.
“Through programs, skills, and activism, with the help of Catholic Relief Services, I have begun to understand the true meaning of global solidarity.”
In the early 1990s, Hackett was the CRS regional director for Africa. He explained that although CRS had been in Rwanda for many years, they were shocked by the genocide in Rwanda. Despite CRS’s efforts to help Rwandans develop their country, there were deep-rooted tensions between ethnic groups that erupted in 800,000 Rwandans being slaughtered in 100 days. CRS saw that without fundamental justice, all their development work could be wiped out in an instant.
After that terrible realization, CRS realized it had to look more deeply at issues of social justice in the world. “But most importantly, we offered hope, we offered a future to those who didn’t think they had a future,” Hackett said.
Having 30 years experience working with the impoverished and hurting, Hackett shared one of CRS’s more memorable success stories. Hackett told the tale of a Zambian educator named Bridget Chisenga who was diagnosed as HIV positive. Word of her illness spread throughout the community resulting in her being ostracized and the loss of her job.
Chisenga, however, did not give up. She was assisted by CRS to obtain antiretroviral medication. She then was able to have hope for her future. She has since become an outreach worker for HIV programming. She was able to obtain the hope she once lost.
This past December Chisenga joined President Bush during a World Aids Day event as an advocate for HIV/AIDS drug therapy programs. ” I’ve seen the Lazarus effect. I have seen hopes being raised. I have seen people coming back to life,” Chisenga said.
Today, Chisenga is working to give what CRS gave her. “She is sharing her message of hope and tolerance,” Hackett said.
” We are called to be One Human Family. We are called to reach out in faith, hope and love to our brothers and sisters around the world,” Hackett said. ” And when we do, their solitude-and ours-will cease to be solitude.”
In his closing remarks, Hackett once again gave accolades to the Cabrini community for all of its commitment to global solidarity.
“I leave here uplifted because of the transformation that our collaboration will bring about in our world,” Hackett said.