May Day Celebration in Laeken: Cardijn is still relevant today

Each year since 1977, from 24th April to 1st May, the IYCW has been organizing a series of actions and activities during the International Week of the Young Workers which ends with the traditional May Day celebration. The year 2017 could not be different. All over the world, young workers and YCW leaders carried out actions against job precariousness and instability, against all sorts of inequalities they may face in their daily life. They exposed the social, political, economic and cultural problems which keep affecting the working and living conditions of millions of young women and men throughout the world.

This year in Brussels, to close the International Week of the Young Workers, the IYCW took an active part in the May Day celebration in Laeken, remembering the 50th anniversary of Joseph Cardijn’s death and proclaiming enthusiastically that “Yes, Cardijn is still relevant today”.

This celebration took place in the church of “Our Lady” in Laeken. It gathered nearly 600 people - current and former YCW leaders, as well as many former members from Belgium but also from France, the Americas, Africa and Asia.

May Day reminds us of the workers’ sufferings and even at times of their bloodshed. But above all it is the symbol of the workers’ struggles and demands. It was only appropriate to give YCW young workers the opportunity to share their testimony.

“For us”, said Martin from the Belgian YCW, “Cardijn is still relevant. We believe in the universal and permanent dimension of the YCW and in its desire to gather all young workers. It is said that organizations rise and live because of the faith of their members, while they die because of bureaucracy. The YCW is alive and our faith is burning. Our faith is embodied in the daily actions our leaders take in their work and living environments. We believe in the working youth, in their capacity to run the movement and to struggle for the dignity of all young workers.”

According to Martin, it is the YCW method which unites those young people within the movement in all their diversity. “The YCW method is still current and relevant. Its simplicity is only equaled by its richness”, he said, “and it is the practice of this method which helps the movement evolve and remain very close to the young workers”. “Moving with the times”, he concluded, “is one of Joseph Cardijn’s teachings.”

The testimony of Abdul Alamyar from MUG, the Brussels KAJ section, is closely akin to Martin’s reflection. Abdul bears witness to this life and passionate faith of the YCW which is continuously in action in the everyday reality, addressing the social and more specific youth challenges.

Abdul, an asylum-seeker from Afghanistan, describes his own experience: “I took part in the KAJ camp about 4 years ago. I was invited by a friend of mine who was already in the group. I got involved in the leaders’ group two years later. We had our office near the Petit-Château (a center for asylum seekers in Brussels) called ‘Voyaach’ (travel), which means that we are “on the way”, with a stop-over in Brussels, coming from a region affected by war. The office has become our second home. There we can talk about life, our future, equality and inequality in the world.”

According to Ludovicus Mardiyono, former YCW international president (2012-2016), “Cardijn’s teaching is powerful and highly inspiring. It is based on his concrete experience and the experience of the young workers he was living with. It does not only bear fruit, it multiplies. Started with a small group of young female workers here in Brussels-Laeken in 1912, over more than 100 years now, the YCW has been contributing in many ways to change the world through the commitment and actions of its leaders.”

Ludovicus Mardiyono invited all participants to support the movement. “There is no reason why we should have any doubt about Cardijn’s relevance”, he added, “so, if you agree with me and you want to spread the impact of Cardijn’s heritage further, I invite you, on behalf of the IYCW international secretariat and of the International Cardijn Association, to open your mind and heart and, with the YCW leaders, to take all possible initiatives to develop the movement and multiply its actions.”

During the celebration, Mgr. Jean Kockerols, bishop of Brussels, delivered a highly appreciated homely focusing on Cardijn’s relevance for our times. He identified 5 challenges that the world is presently facing and asked himself what Cardijn, if he came back, would tell the young workers today; what he would, through them, invite us to see; how he would help us to judge; and what he would ask us to do…

After the Eucharistic celebration, the participants were invited to visit, in the church premises, the permanent exhibition on Cardijn and the development of the International YCW, as well as the stands of the local YCWs, the International YCW and the Cardijn Training Center.

As always, Cardijn’s statement that “every young worker is worth more than all the gold of the world” remains for us a source of inspiration calling us to proceed with our action and struggle for “just work, dignified life, social protection, gender equality, and quality education. It encourages us to build a world where all could live together in justice and brotherhood. 


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