As one who practices Buddhism, one of my truths is impermanence and constant change within the world. As people in the world, we are subject to these effects. I could write, “this week has been hard, the world is really hurting now” as if it weren’t last week, or month, or year. The truth is, the world is impermanent, and part of this truth is suffering and mortality. Just two days ago, my city of Los Angeles became the city of Lost Angels, as 14 people lost their lives in only one of the mass shootings that day. In an instant, we witnessed irreparable damage.
As a human being, I can’t help but carry a tiny bit of the weight of global suffering on my head. There seems to be so much in the world, and within every person. This week after an eventful Monday evening at Northeastern University, a word has been circling through my mind with multiple meanings. That word is “movement”.
Movement is change, and the world is always in motion. People, too, are constantly on the move, and this movement creates harm when it is unwelcome or seemingly threatening. Movement is what happens when a central place or system begins to cause unbearable suffering.
Today, over 12 million people have been affected by the crisis and violence in Syria. This is a season of migration, of moving, of people losing their homes, families, and identities. As the Syrian people seek refuge, the rest of the world must respond. People have always moved, always migrated in search of life that is safer, more prosperous, or offering something new. In this migration, we are exposed and vulnerable, whether we are moving or not.
In my current city, Boston, movement has demanded a capital “M” recently. Student activism is increasing on campuses here and around the country on issues from the Fight for Fifteen to Institutional Discrimination to Divestment. Movement is happening at the grassroots and is beginning to climb the administrations of institutions. Whether I agree with particular statements and actions or not, I do believe this nonviolent, intentional activism is something to be encouraged. Someone once complained about my generation being lazy because we “don’t have a Vietnam to protest.” On the contrary, the new campus Movements are part of a larger protest toward inclusion, safety, and true pluralism.
Part of my job at Northeastern University is to direct the Global Citizenship Project, an initiative to explore how we can utilize the resources of our Northeastern and wider Boston community to train students, faculty and staff to be global community members. Our Executive Director Alex Kern describes the vision of this project in three statements: “You belong, you are connected, you are needed.” These feel like immense but essential statements at this moment. They dig deeper at the popular “Think global, act local” we so commonly hear on college campuses and in global activism.
On Monday evening, I realized that Northeastern students do participate in global citizenship as they recognize this movement in the world, from global migration to caring for one another. A group of students from different faith traditions came together to assemble winter packs for homeless citizens of Boston. Many of those students stayed for the Islamic Society of Northeastern’s weekly Deen and Dine to share a meal with other Muslim students and listen to a fellow student offer some wisdom about a passage from the Holy Qur’an. From there, many of the same cohort of students attended a fundraiser for Syrian Refugees, an event that brought together students from a variety of cultural and religious organizations. As I listened to a very enriching talk by a Northeastern Professor about the current climate of Syria and neighboring countries, I realized these students are modeling global citizenship. They are thinking and acting globally and locally. They understand that change requires movement, and movement catalyzes change, and they are cultivating a sense of what this movement could look like. Despite the constant violence, harm and sadness we see in the world, I know there are young leaders that give us reason to smile.