Canadian youth join fight against malaria

  • May 1, 2009
{mosimage}Eight Canadian youth have become Faiths Act Fellows in a program launched by the Tony Blair Faith Foundation in April.

They will join 22 other youth worldwide in the fight against malaria. They will receive training, gain hands-on experience in Africa and return to promote interfaith involvement on the global issue of malaria.

The initiative partnered here with the Belinda Stronach Foundation and the Interfaith Youth Core (IYC) in Chicago that will help train and support the youth. In Canada, the fellows will be hosted by the Multifaith Centre at the University of Toronto , the Micah Challenge Canada in Ottawa and the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism in Montreal.

Atonement Friar Father Damian MacPherson, ecumenical and interfaith affairs officer for the archdiocese of Toronto, took part in a roundtable headed by Blair, the former prime minister of England, in Toronto April 23. He said the initiative was very commendable, whether or not it was coming from Blair’s Catholic consciousness or a global awareness. He added it will be a great opportunity for the interfaith community to get together and assist the needy.

“I think it’s a very worthy cause because dealing with malaria is a very lofty goal which often doesn’t preoccupy our time,” he said. “But the need is huge because of the kids who are dying because of a lack of protection — and bed nets only cost $10.”

Elyse Brazel, a 25-year-old who works as a volunteer co-ordinator  with Catholic Social Services in Edmonton, said she wants to empower Catholic youth and others through her creativity, passion and openness to new ideas and sharing.

“When I talk to Catholic youth I can hear the hunger to find opportunities to put their faith into action,” she said. “I want to empower Catholic youth to actively engage in caring for our global family through action, while building community locally with people from different faiths.”

Tim Brauhn, 25, a Catholic from Denver, said the initiative is the perfect project to bring the different faiths together.

“Mosquitoes don’t care if you’re a Christian, a Muslim or a die-hard atheist,” he said.

Brauhn said he is looking forward to further exploring what his Catholicism means to him in his work and to figure out how his peers see Catholics in social service. Reaching out to the Catholic community, for him, means building on an already strong tradition of social service work in the church.

Hilary Keachie, a 22-year-old member of the United Church in Toronto, agreed that churches play an important role in helping remote communities.

“In remote communities in Africa, often they don’t have access to hospitals but they have churches or mosques,” Keachie said. “It’s very important to mobilize our communities of faith (to help them).”

Joey Shapiro, a program assistant for the Faiths Act Fellowship from IYC, said the selected Fellows needed to meet a series of criteria which included strong commitment to service, leadership and some experience or involvement with interfaith initiatives. They did not select the youth based on their religion.

He said they will be encouraged in their 10-month service internship to develop their personal authenticity and identity in their own faith tradition while using common morals found across religions to benefit the common good.

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