Student activism has highlighted media coverage of the Gaza war between Israel and Hamas. My alma mater, Columbia University, has been the epicenter of student unrest and the catalyst for uprisings across the US at college campuses.

On April 30, my wife, Marita Grudzen, and I attended a lecture on Human Rights Activism in Africa by Professor Kumi Naidoo, the Arthur W. Payne Distinguished Lecturer at the Stanford University Freeman Institute for International Studies. Professor Naidoo’s resume includes his role in organizing the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and later helping to organize the legalization of the African National Congress after Nelson Mandela was released from prison.

Professor Naidoo turned his activism to climate change issues and became the Executive Director of Greenpeace International. His first book, Boiling Point: Can Citizen Action Save the World? launched his role as a global ambassador, leading to his becoming the Secretary General of Amnesty International. Professor Naidoo’s message was that ordinary people are the unique and necessary social force to save our planet and spread democracy everywhere. He also emphasized that throughout Africa, the youth are organizing to bring about social justice and more inclusive economic and environmental policies that transcend any nation-state. This movement includes arts and culture as a form of political activism.

The present youth activism in the US is indicative that our youth are aware that social justice activism transcends the boundaries of our nation. We are inextricably linked to what happens in the Middle East and other flash points around the world. Our colleges and universities play a key role in creating a new generation of activist leaders who understand the economic, political, and ideological factors that have shaped our contemporary world. Global Ministries University is now one of the activist leaders in global education through our online international interfaith conferences and our global interfaith graduate program in Science and Religion. Our faculty comprises prominent theologians and scholars in the field of Science and Religion from India, Europe, Africa, and the USA. We are happy to welcome Professor Kumi Naidoo as one of our keynote speakers at our 2025 global interfaith conference during the UN World Interfaith Harmony Week.

Today’s youth movement for social justice and recognition of universal human rights needs to be informed by the historical examples of Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King. These leaders had a moral foundation of non-violence for their civic activism. Hopefully. Our present generation can learn from their example.

Gerald Grudzen, Th.D.
Global Ministries University

Image attribution: Matt Hrkac from Melbourne, Australia, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons