Quest for Dignity: Reflections on WYA Track A Training

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I was expecting typical schoolwork: reading, writing, studying, the usual when it comes to classes. Keeping this in mind, I dove into the World Youth Alliance amidst taking 5 college classes, working 2 jobs, and performing numerous extracurriculars that denied me any time for rest. The Training started out as another academic thing on my to-do list. I was not prepared for it to completely change the way that I think and grasp the world.

Featuring some of the most outstanding works from the brightest minds, this course took me on an exploration of the world and of myself through Human Dignity, Freedom, Solidarity, Culture, International Law, and Human Rights. While fascinating for any International Relations enthusiast such as myself, what intrigued me most about these works was the philosophical inquiry and take on questions that humanity has been grappling with for centuries.

In Man in the Struggle for Peace, Charles Malik voices the human anxiety and desperation to create peace in the world and find peace within oneself.  This touched me from the moment that I read it, as it brought out my fears about entering the field of International Relations to make a change for the better in the world.  What purpose do we have and how is what we do meaningful in life and in contributing to peace? How do we make peace in a world where so much is astray? Why do diplomats and others who earnestly care about development keep trying to achieve universal peace despite war, violence, poverty, and other failures? I finally faced these difficult questions during this part of the Track A Training.

Moving to Viktor Frank’s famous Experiences in a Concentration Camp, I encountered, more than ever, the sanctity of Human Dignity and inviolability of Freedom.  In one of the most dehumanizing and horrific events in history, the Holocaust, concentration camp survivor, Victor Frankl, discovered the truth of Human Dignity and affirmed that Human Freedom cannot be vanquished. The strength of the person and of one’s Dignity and Freedom rises above all. No one and nothing can take that away from you.

Inspired and changed, I entered Vaclav Havel’s Power of the Powerless. Havel depicts the machine of the dictatorship in the Eastern European Soviet bloc, beautifully describing how this machine functioned and altered society, thriving on everyone playing their role in the Lie. As an Albanian whose parents and family grew up in such a system, the message of solidarity, identity, and the collective good against tyranny resonated with me. I seized the idea of “Living in the Truth.”

The readings of this WYA training program opened my eyes and mind to so much more than I had imagined. For the first time, I realized the gravity and danger of denying the human dignity of people and groups of people. I became aware of how our social constructions of what constitutes “superiority” (such as religion, race, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and more) can have disastrous consequences, like Apartheid and the Holocaust. But I also learned about the strength of the person and the value of art and human creation. I was captivated by Joseph Pieper’s readings on the beauty of art and music as an expression of the soul. The need to live an authentic life with Human Dignity exists in all of us. Becoming aware of it and acknowledging the endowed human dignity of people is a key element that was metaphorically imprinted in me thanks to the WYA Track A Training.

More than a course on instruction or International Studies, the WYA Track A Training is a focus on the innermost Human Dignity. The course’s value rises not from professional training or teaching factual knowledge, but in showing the authenticity of Human Dignity, dispelling ignorance, opening minds, and engaging young people in the fabric of humanity. This is a transformative and invaluable experience.

By Klevisa Kovaci, a certified WYA North America member