The World Youth Alliance and Human Dignity
The World Youth Alliance is an educational and advocacy group that defends the dignity of the human person in international, political, and cultural venues. Faith & Culture is pleased to present an interview with the Alli-ance’s founder, Anna Halpine. Since its founding in 1999, the Alliance has grown to become a prominent voice for truth and authentic love with offices on six continents and many programs and publications, includ-ing an innovative curriculum on human dignity.
Faith & Culture: WYA exists to defend human dignity, an often-misunderstood phrase. What does it mean?
Ms. Halpine: Good question! First, we have a definition: World Youth Alliance members recognize that every person has dignity from the first moment of conception through to their natural death. Second, we un-derstand that this human dignity cannot be given or rescinded; we have it by nature of being a human person, and not because of what we have done or not done. Therefore, the State can neither grant nor rescind our human dignity. They can respect or violate it, but it is intrinsic to us. Third, we believe that people can choose to live according to their human dignity, which is the best expression of their human freedom. But they can also refuse to live according to this dignity, for themselves and others, which always leads to injustice.
Faith & Culture: St. John Paul II memorably said that today’s crisis of truth is a “crisis of language.” Was this a prophetic statement?
Ms. Halpine: St. John Paul II had his pulse on the fundamental questions of our time. The abuse of lan-guage is always related to the abuse of power. When we look at the human person, we see that the abuse of the language always comes before the abuse of the person. Recall the Nazis and their campaign to dehumanize Jews; this was also a central aspect of the Rwandan genocide, which first broadcast that one group of people were ‘cockroaches’ and not persons. In our own day, we can see this very clearly with abortion. The idea of choice trumps the humanity of the child, along with many other linguistic games which dehumanize the baby and abandon the mother.
Faith & Culture: What do you see as the greatest threats to the human person today?
Ms. Halpine: Today, the human person is threatened in many ways. There is the direct threat of abortion and euthanasia. With these actions we judge and reject the very existence of human beings. Culturally, there is growing confusion as well about the value of human persons. We can see this in the increase of violence, the growing polarization, and the acceleration of violence even in our language. Each human person has dignity and is a subject worthy of love. When we learn to treat any person as an object – something that can be dis-carded or destroyed at will – it leads to the objectification of every person. This is obvious in almost every aspect of our culture.
Faith & Culture: What can Catholics in the pews do to defend the truth about the human person?
Ms. Halpine: Culture is the expression of our belief. A strong and healthy culture is one in which many peo-ple live and act in a similar way. This builds the ‘thick threads’ that provide a worldview to a community of people, to families, to children who live and grow in such an environment. Each of us has an obligation to live and act intentionally so as to rebuild a culture that affirms every human person. We need to ask ourselves: for what do I live? For what would I die? People who can answer these questions live their lives differently. They know what matters, and they contribute to their families, communities and the world in amazing ways.
Faith & Culture: What is the WYA curriculum on human dignity and why is it important?
Ms. Halpine: ‘Who is the human person’ is at the heart of our cultural crisis. One answer to this question is that the human person is an individual that seeks maximum pleasure and power. This worldview is the view that informs gender ideology and most sexual education content in schools, on TV, and across the internet. This worlview is clear, compelling, and presented to our children each day. It forms their moral imagination and shapes the kind of person they will be. Since action follows being – or in other words, we act as we be-lieve – reshaping our worldview and inspiring the moral imagination of our children is essential.
The Human Dignity Curriculum (HDC) seeks to do this: to clearly and sequentially articulate who we are as human persons, how and why we are different from animals, that we have human dignity and the freedom to act accordingly, and that using our freedom to affirm our dignity and the dignity of others leads to human excellence. In this way, the HDC seeks to form the moral imagination of children at a young age, which is why our program starts in Kindergarten. We are asking our kids to be super heroes in this culture; to em-brace different ideals, and to live them in such a compelling way that they will inspire their friends and peers. The HDC aims to give them some of the tools they need to accomplish this.
Faith & Culture: What is next on the horizon for WYA?
Ms. Halpine: This year marks 20 years for WYA. Looking back, we can see that the first 10 years were years of building our global network and programs; and the last 10 have given us the HDC and our women’s health program, FEMM. As we look forward we are eager to continue to grow our network of young people, in order to implement these new programs and solutions in communities and countries around the world. Give us the tools, Churchill famously said, and we will win the war. With HDC as a counter to gender pro-grams, and FEMM as a new model for women’s health, the World Youth Alliance now has the tools we’ve needed to concretely build a culture of life in communities everywhere.