Basil AbdulRazeq Farraj ’14 has a vision to work with Palestinian youth.
He draws inspiration from his experiences on campus as a Peace and Global Studies major, a semester abroad and summer in Northern Ireland, and two internships in his home country of Palestine.
“Palestinian children and youth are the ones who are greatly affected, and they are the hope of the future.” Farraj says. “I want to work with them and foster their role in building a just society.”
While studying in Northern Ireland in Spring 2012 and then again in summer of 2013, Farraj interned with Early Years — the Organization for Young Children, an group working to promote and develop high quality, evidence-informed early childhood services for young children, their families and communities.
“They work with marginalized families and children to make sure they have access to resources such as education,” he explains. “It’s inspirational to see this kind of work being done and directed toward justice.”
Similar inspiration developed during two internships Farraj completed with Defense for Child International — Palestine Section, a non-governmental organization working to promote and protect the rights of Palestinian children in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international, regional and local standards.
For nearly two years, Farraj has worked on an original project that will bring seven Palestinian youth aged 14-16 to Northern Ireland for 10 days in June of 2014. The Palestinian youth will meet Northern Irish youth through activities involving sports, art, theatre and numerous workshops.
“One of the aims of the project is to show Palestinian youth the history of another country that has been tremendously affected by conflict,” Farraj says. “The youth will see the attempts being made to move toward justice, and they will have the opportunity to speak about their realities of living under occupation as well as their hopes for the future.”
Farraj says he began thinking about the project after the Northern Ireland semester abroad.
“My time in Northern Ireland had a great impact on me,” he states. “I started thinking about ways in which I could use what I learned there, and I didn’t want to limit myself. I wanted to share with others the opportunity and privilege of going to Northern Ireland and what I learned there.
“Our commitment to justice goes beyond signing conventions, papers or agreements,” he continues. “It is extremely broad and hard to narrow. Working for and with children to end human rights violations, racism and discrimination is one area where much needs to be done. This work highlights the importance of children and youth in our communities and their role in the struggle for justice.
“It is hard not to develop an interest in working with youth and children when you witness their rights being violated on a daily basis. There is an imperative for this kind of work, and it is where the work for justice should begin.”
Farraj credits his campus experiences as co-president of Earlham Student Government, member of Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine, member of the Diversity Council, member of the Social Justice League, which is a coalition of student groups concerned about issues of social justice, one of which is the College’s choice of divestment, and his PAGS courses.
“The PAGS curriculum informed my understanding of peace and justice,” he says. “The department drives us to challenge and critically think about the ways in which we can engage toward justice. I came to PAGS as a junior, which is rather late, but I am so glad that I did. The PAGS faculty’s help extends beyond the classroom. They are continuously willing to help students in their initiatives and projects. (PAGS Director Joanna Swanger) has had a great impact on my growth as a student and in fostering my passion.
“Looking back, when I chose Earlham I didn’t understand all that it offered. The faculty and peer support you receive inside and outside the classroom makes Earlham a special place.”