New youth representatives for Development and Peace

By  Brittney White. Youth Speak News
  • February 18, 2007
EDMONTON – If  a person could define vivacity, love of both God and justice, Julio Cesar Garcia, a 26-year-old engineer and political activist from Edmonton would be a good candidate.

Garcia has been appointed the first of two multilingual youth representatives on the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace national council, alongside Marilou Villeneuve, 23, of Ste-Foy, Que.

Development and Peace is the official international development organization of the Catholic Church in Canada.

“The system fails people over and over.... Development and Peace is a Gospel-based organization seeking social and economic change in the world,” said Garcia, while sipping a tea at Cargo and James Teahouse on Whyte Avenue in Edmonton.

“For me one must parallel charity effort with true justice. This is something Development and Peace clearly demonstrates in its campaigns."

In November 2005, the national council of Development and Peace adopted a resolution from the youth advisory council recommending the creation of these new youth positions, which represent both of the official languages of Canada. The positions were created to engage a younger generation in the organization’s social justice work.

As members of the national council, Garcia and Villeneuve help decide the direction of the organization. The youth representatives have the same voting rights as other council members.

It is a volunteer position and, although sometimes Garcia is offered honoraria, he often declines or returns the donations to Development and Peace.

Garcia’s commitment to social justice started early in life when he and his family moved from the capital city of El Salvador, San Salvador, to Los Angeles, where they lived illegally as political refugees for three years.

Upon moving to Canada, Garcia found himself immersed in his studies and growing up as a regular Canadian citizen. It was not until Garcia had finished his degree in engineering that he began to disdain his achievements. As a result, he challenged himself to seek a deeper purpose in his life.

Garcia asked God how he could serve Him upon graduating with his degree in engineering at the University of Alberta. He said he heard God calling out to him, “Julio, wake up, this is a lie.”

Garcia began to vividly imagine the pains of the world, and at that point felt himself humbled by the realization that the only answer to the world’s problems is God.

Garcia eventually started volunteering with Development and Peace because he shared its values.

Garcia recognizes that there will always be injustice in the world, but he continually strives to do his part. One of his mottos is: “People are more individualized than scattered. We as people must call out to gather people.”

Garcia has set a list of goals that include developing political and spiritual leadership opportunities for youth ministers in parishes, acting as a media activist against global poverty and recording an album with other Latin American young adults about socio-political-spiritual issues.

Garcia said he stays motivated because he feels very loved by God.

“There is a constant grace and strength in being called to evangelize and be a person true to Gospel values. Through this, (I am) humble and patient, but courageous and outspoken. I am not into glory and fame for the poor, but I would sacrifice everything I have to give to people. That is what we have been taught, to first love God and then your neighbour.”

Garcia is certain that all of the answers to the world’s problems exist, and as an inspiration to young people who are seeking greater justice in this world he insists, “we must simply connect the dots.”

(White, 21, is a psychology student at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.)


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