Arts / Faith and Humanities / Campus Community / People of SU

Historic Encounter

March 24, 2022

Student Synod with Pope Francis

Two SU students participated in a dialogue with Pope Francis last month.

Two Redhawks—Shala McKee, ‘22 (Cultural Anthropology) and Afrikaan Sahra, ‘24 (Computer Science)—participated in Pope Francis’ historic encounter with university students from North, Central and South America last month. 

The pope and students dialogued on issues of the day, highlighting migrants and children of migrants who are committed to transforming environmental and economic realities related to human migration and displacement. 

Leading up to the Feb. 24 gathering titled "Building Bridges North-South," seven regional working groups—each including about 20 students—met to prepare. 

Sahra (right) was selected because of his leadership roles at SU. He’s an Alfie Scholar and Ignatian Leader, serves as the Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) Dean's Student Advisory Council and works with RAMP.up with the Center for Community Engagement and Albers. He took some time to reflect on the dialogue with the Pope. 

Q: What did you take away from the overall experience? 

Afrikaan: For me, the event was life-changing. I got to hear from more than 50 students from 21 nations. Most of them were immigrants and/or children of migrants. They all shared their stories and how they show leadership and innovation/creativity to solve their local challenges.  

It has been a blessing to be a part of "Building-Bridges"—a program to uplift the voices of students who are migrants and/or the children of migrants and connect, collaborate and create solutions for our people with our respective universities and communities. I’ve linked with so many incredible young leaders advocating and creating solutions for their communities. They've inspired me with their resilience, creativity and genuine human stories. 

Q: What stood out specifically from the conversation with the Pope? 

Afrikaan: The Pope was tender-hearted and very progressive. I love when he said, “We’ve to give young people concrete answers, no maybes.” He also mentioned the need to listen and uplift the voices of immigrants/refugees. We need to sympathize with refugees/migrants from all over the world and share a positive narrative that shows the diversity of skills, talents, jobs, identity and experiences we bring to host nations. 

I myself immigrated to the US five years ago and I'm hopeful because I'm learning to change my life, my family and the community that I live among here in South Seattle. I’m working on creating Digital Equity for our communities here. l have founded tech4REFUGEES, an organization that aims to bridge the gap of digital literacy and hopes to reduce digital gap for minority communities in WA state. That’s what I hope to do upon graduation. 

Learn more and watch the Feb. 24 gathering at Building Bridges.