Today, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, or Yom Hashoah in Hebrew, for the second year in a row, JRS/USA is pleased to announce the winners of the Lessons from Anne Essay and Video Competition: Courage, Compassion, and Hope in Refuge. The competition, a collaboration of the Jesuit Schools Network, Educate Magis, The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and America Media was held as an opportunity to raise awareness and conversation around the lives of refugees and how Jesuit educated students can take action.
This year, the competition was open to Jesuit-educated high school students from across the globe and we received submissions from countries such as Spain, Italy, Brazil, Colombia, and Zimbabwe, along with the United States.
Bae Na Dae Ta of Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School, graduating class of 2021, is receiving first place for her essay, which calls to us action in response to welcoming refugee. Bae Na writes: “When we shut others out because they are different from us, we are rejecting God’s call to love those around us.” Bae Na knows this well, as she shares her own personal story of being a refugee in the United States and the welcome she received. “Even though I am different from the rest of my classmates, I felt a sense of belonging when they took the time to help me feel welcomed. Because of them, this new strange place became a new home.”
When told she won the essay portion of the competition she responded, “I am very honored to receive this award and that I was able to write this essay to speak up for the millions of refugees who are still finding their place in this world. I am glad that I could do something as small as writing this essay to be a voice for the millions whose voices are still unheard. Thank you JRS for giving me this opportunity to share my thoughts and to share my story.”
Bae Na’s full essay can be found on America Magazine’s Website and will be published in an upcoming edition.
Juan José López Delgado of Berchmans School, Cali, Colombia, graduating class of 2020, is receiving first place in the digital portion of the competition for his video entitled “Be the Change”, which gives a visual of what welcoming refugees looks like in one’s own community.
Upon being told he won the digital portion of the competition, Juan shared these words, “First of all, we want to thank the Jesuit Refugee Service for organizing this type of initiatives. It is an honor that in such a digital world we can use the tools available to create content that generates changes in our society. It took us two days to make a two minutes video, however it was worth every second. The invitation is very clear: every little gesture we make can change the day of a person who needs it – a look, a handshake, a hug. Sure, if we embrace the differences instead of judging them; then, we would all have a better world.”
“Congratulations to the awardees of this year’s Lessons from Anne Essay and Video Competition. Each awardee embodied a commitment to welcoming the stranger,” says Joan Rosenhauer, Executive Director, JRS/USA. “As a young refugee, Anne Frank expressed courage to become a voice of hope for her generation. Inspired by Anne, our awardees have done the same by becoming advocates for refugees and displaced persons around the world.”
As we take time on Holocaust Remembrance Day to remember six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust and millions of other victims of Nazism, we encourage you to read Bae Na’s essay, watch Juan’s video, and reflect on what it means to welcome the stranger, especially those that seem different from us. As Bae Na writes, “Fear should not keep us from fulfilling our very purpose to love one another.” We were created by love, for love, and it is love that animates our being. It is through love that we can overcome hate.
It is also important to note this year’s contest was held in honor of those killed at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA, in October 2018. It is with heavy hearts that we also use this announcement as way to honor all those killed at places of worship in 2019, including the victims of the shootings at Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Center in New Zealand, the bombings at Catholic churches in Sri Lanka, and the recent shooting at Chabad of Poway Synagogue near San Diego, California. We pray for reconciliation and that interfaiths can one day love and live as one.