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Triennium participants embark on advocacy walk around Purdue campus

Stations highlight ministries and activism opportunities

by Gregg Brekke | Presbyterian News Service

Students sign a petition asking for fair wages for strawberry farm workers during the Triennium advocacy walk. (Photo by Gregg Brekke)

Students sign a petition asking for fair wages for strawberry farm workers during the Triennium advocacy walk. (Photo by Gregg Brekke)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Students attending the 2016 Presbyterian Youth Triennium on the campus of Purdue University had the opportunity Friday morning to view the tree-filled campus from a different perspective: as advocates for justice causes in which the church participates.

Eleven stations were staffed with volunteers and employees of various ministries of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and Cumberland Presbyterian Church that work in the world for social and humanitarian causes from the perspective of Christian faith.

Disaster assistance, food justice, farm worker justice, gender equality, gun violence and racial justice were just a few of the stops along the 3.1-mile walk outlining campus. Additionally, ministries with integral justice components such as the Young Adult Volunteer program and 1001 Worshiping Communities were present on the route.

The week’s overall theme of “GO!” And Friday’s sub-theme of “Let my people GO” introduced students to the church’s work of ending oppression, sharing resources and caring for creation; catalyzing the conference message of finding Jesus in others.

Students from Peaks and Prairies and Chicago presbyteries, Eli, Abby and Hannah, speak with Beth Snyder of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance during the Triennium advocacy walk. (Photo by Gregg Brekke)

Students from Peaks and Prairies and Chicago presbyteries, Eli, Abby and Hannah, speak with Beth Snyder of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance during the Triennium advocacy walk. (Photo by Gregg Brekke)

Asked if her involvement in the justice walk had influenced or informed her views, Abby from Fort Collins, Colorado said, “I really want to get involved either before I go into college, but definitely after,” hinting at interest in the Young Adult Volunteer program. “I’d like to do something to make a difference.”

Abby had recent experience following flooding in her town when members of her church helped people rebuild, did cleanup and took families in who had lost their homes. “It was right outside our door and our efforts made a difference,” she said.

“The church is one of the best ways to help get a message out and help people,” said Hannah from Libertyville, Illinois. “Our local church is limited in what we can do, so I want to explore other ways outside my own church to help people.”

Hannah’s church provides meals for a summer student food program and works with people who have become homeless, offering meals and night shelter to families as part of a coalition of churches.

“It’s really cool seeing all the things the church does through faith,” said Eli from Yuma, Colorado. “Being from a small town you’re not aware of all the huge programs the church does, so it’s great to see how much is going on.”

Hannah and Abby were eager to get to the gun violence and gender justice stations to “see what the church’s take is on it,” said Hannah.

“Opinions differ so greatly depending on where you live,” she said. “If you live in the north or south, the suburbs or the city, gives you a very different perspective than someone who uses [a firearm] to protect themselves if they live in the country. I’m interested to see what the church’s stand is on balancing those viewpoints.”

“It’s such an important issue right now,” agreed Abby. “Hearing what the church has to say—I know it’s going to be about spreading the love and more positive than many things we’re hearing right now.”

On the issue of gender justice, Hannah said, “I’m very aware of it because I want to go into engineering. I know I’m going into a very male-dominated field and so I’m always interested in learning how I can combat those views or looking at what people are doing to help women become leaders in the field.”

“Like most girls I want full equality,” said Abby, who—having met Hannah just minutes earlier—also hopes to pursue a career in engineering. “It’s the 21st century, we might as well get paid the same.”

Eli agreed with his female companions, “I’m curios to see what the church has to say on [gender equality] because it is such a big issue,” he said. “It does need to change, and change starts with us.”

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Presbyterian Youth Triennium continues through Saturday, July 23. Presbyterian News Service will continue to post stories from the event and live event information can be found on Twitter via this link: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23pyt2016


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