On the cool evening of 19th June, 2016; the St. Patrick’s Formation House located at Ijebu-Ode Ogun State was graced by the arrival of young, beautiful and vibrant youths from St. Matthew’s parish Amukoko, and St. Joseph’s Parish, Kirikiri, Lagos state. It is SELL (Sharing Education and Learning for Life) workshop again! Earlier in 2015 the phase one of this leadership workshop was held and the students and youths were participants and they all shared their thoughts around the various issues that arose in various units and it was really enlightening and empowering. This year again, the formation house is graced and honored to host the second phase which encompasses two units; the “Justice unit” and the “community building unit”. These two units are very essential especially when looking at the various challenges we face in our nation due to individual and collective failings in regard to the quest for justice and building of bonds and communities.
The workshop began fully on the morning of the 20th of June 2016; there were about forty-four participants all in all; 25 youths from Amukoko, 2 youths from Kirikiri and 17 students from the formation House. Fr. Patrick Esekon SPS and Mr. Beji Benjamin Jibe were the facilitators who worked collaboratively with participants to make this workshop a success through the adoption of the participatory methodology which is a style of facilitation in which participants share and participate actively through critical thinking and reflection which aided them to find deeper answers to various issues that arose at various points of the sessions/discussions.
Justice was the bone of contention for the first three days of the workshop. What is Justice to you? What does it entail? The question “WHY” is most significant in issues of justice, amongst the various definitions given by participants, it is clear that justice means different thing to various persons, however a simple approach to defining Justice is simply asking the question “WHY?” and this is to lead everyone into thinking critically about politics, economy, society and religion; to assist the participants to understand social analysis, to understand that for peace to reign there must be justice and lastly, to see how social justice is an essential part of peace building. Participants explored issues around social injustice and how it plays out in our day to day life experiences. They explored it from various works of life; politics, family, educational sector and even in the church. In order to explore the issue of social injustice more concretely, Fr. Patrick Esekon SPS introduced the participants to the diamond frame work for critical social analysis.
It is a tool among many that is used for analyzing things, community happenings and many other fields. By nature humans can be described as a political, cultural/religious, social and economic being. Hence it helps us analyze issues from these various perspectives. First of all it demands that the individual is able to recognize and acknowledge the issue then secondly, the individual analyses the issue from different angle using the diamond frame work. The participants and the facilitators were able to analyze situations plaguing our communities after which participants moved into smaller groups to discuss before returning to share in the bigger groups. Next was on human rights, participants discussed a couple of human rights and they shared on how this right of theirs has been expressed and restricted. Human right is basic to the fight for justice because we cannot fight for our deprived rights if we do not even know these rights; basically this session helped participants understand their rights and to the degree they could exercise them.
The Community building unit just like other units of the SELL program began with the display of the rainbow which summarized the whole aim and goal of community building. This symbol brings to mind the fact that each color though unique, will not be as beautiful as when it forms part of the rainbow. In every community, each person is unique in his/her own way but we must work together to make our community a better place. The problem encountered in different communities emanates from the fact that at some point, people begin to disregard other people’s culture and historical background to logical reasoning. Within this unit, Mr. Beji helped participants to see how they perceived people within their communities. To acknowledge their values and beliefs and most of all to know where they come from. This unit also helped participants to look at the place of women in the community. This was geared towards making participants take decision about what kind of community they want to build and live, in comparison with that which they live in now and to find ways of forming such a good community in which they wish to live for their own good and that of many generations to come. The participants were asked to list the attributes of an ideal community or more of, what they expect a community to be and then later they were asked to describe the attributes of the community they live in at the present and they realized that their present community is far from the ideal community they want to have and solace came from the fact that all hope was not yet lost but that we can rise up to make the changes we desire.
Participants were invited to talk about their identity; knowing who I am, where I come from, my culture and the language I speak and most of all, what it means for me to be from a particular continent, country, gender, tribe, religion, ethnic group, e.t.c and learning how we can preserve our values while still respecting the values of others in order to live peacefully in our communities. On the need for cultural reform; there was need to know that there are several cultural practices which might have been well intended by those who started them but with time these practices have been misunderstood and because of that, they raise a lot of concern in the community. We need dialogue to review them no matter how difficult it may seem so as to make things easier for ourselves and others. Each or at least most cultures and religion advocate peace in communities and yet there is a lot of violence these in the light of recent times has been a big issue that needs immediate response and as members of various communities, we are called and obliged to promote peace both at an individual and collective level.
Next was on the issue of gender inequality; participants were asked to share the view and experiences around this issue and participants shared in their own view how women are treated as weaker sex and how they are denied opportunities and even basic human rights. The aim of this session was to lead participants into appreciating the uniqueness of the female sex and to promote and advocate for equality and equity in all ramifications. The avocation for equality is not to be taken to the other extreme which is “feminism” in which feminist advocate that the female sex be higher than the male. The message here is not feminism but equality and equity; that women be given their due rights and opportunities to make their own contributions towards societal growth and development. This can be done by allowing them go to school and not just seeing them as house wives or even as properties to be possessed but as human beings with rights and dignity and to be allowed to take up careers of their choices.
It is only right that those who have been enlightened now in turn would enlighten others; at the end of the workshop, the participants from St. Matthew’s Parish Amukoko were asked to pick up a project that will lead to the enlightenment of the people in the community from which they had come. They decided to pick a project on the importance of sex education in schools and at the family level, the participants believed that the absence of this (sex education) has caused a lot of havoc especially in their locality and they believe that with great enlightenment in this regard, it will control the level of rape and sexual abuse in their community and from their community, they believe it will go a long way to reach out to others from the other parts of the country.
A summary of these units (Justice and Community Building) is captured below in:
“THE LIVING SPIRIT” from a Graffiti seen on a wall in New York
- I was hungry and you formed a debating society to discuss it.
- I was imprisoned and you just complained about the rate of crime.
- I was naked and you debated the morality of my appearance.
- I was sick and you thanked God for your health.
- I was homeless and you preached to me about the shelter of God’s love.