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Spiritual Activism for At-Risk Youth: Compassionate Saint Augustine’s Youth Academy Initiative, an Ethnographic Study
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Theology, Department of Theology.
2018 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

BACKGROUND:  This is an ethnographic study of two communities coming together to serve at-risk youth in St. Augustine, Florida. Compassionate St Augustine (CSA) is a non-profit organization grounded in the Golden Rule that promotes compassion-based practices in schools, businesses, faith communities, and government. The Youth Academy is a high-risk residential juvenile facility housing 70 boys between the ages of 13 and 19. The two joined forces to bring opportunity, healing and hope to these boys and over the last two years, CSA has had over 30 ongoing classes, programs, events and workshops at the academy – teaching everything from Qi Gong to how to properly butter your bread.

AIM: My overall aim is to study spiritual activism to inspire action and create a shift in collective consciousness. In this specific setting, I examined what spiritual and/or humanistic factors motivate transformation, what impact happens from the spiritual activism and how does it change the future?

THEORY: I examine these questions through the lens of spiritual activism, using ethnographic social science theory. In ethnography, it is important to present a full picture, to use description and quotations. It was important to me to give these at-risk young men their voice, to share their quotes and the pictures they took to give insight into their lives. After the inductive study of ethnography, I applied a deductive study to my observations through a framework of existential health theory, thus doing an abductive study of the spiritual activism and its impact.  

METHOD: I spent five weeks doing participatory observation in classes, meetings and events. I conducted semi-structured interviews with students, activists and staff. The boys also participated in Photovoice, taking pictures to show aspects of their life and transformation.    

RESULTS: I found the program components of meditation & Alternatives to Violence Program, music, art & etiquette, compassion & service and restoring health equity & social justice created changes the existential health dimensions of these young men. They received tools to transform their current life and their futures.       

CONCLUSION: The goal of the CSA program at the Youth Academy is to help change the mindset of the young men and improve their quality of life. The overall goal of spiritual activism is to create an individual transformation in hearts and minds in order to create a collective consciousness shift in worldview. Both involve changing people existentially – changing how a person relates to themselves, to each other, to the world and to life. How we relate to existence determines how we define existence.

CSA is helping to fulfill the Youth Academy’s vision of offering these underprivileged young men a true academy – a learning environment filled with opportunities for growth, exploration and healing that will give these boys a new chance to define who they are from a place of wholeness. They are a clear example that restorative justice is what is needed to help heal these young men, to help bring more social justice to society in general and to bring health equity to future generations.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018. , p. 102
Keywords [en]
Spiritual, Activism, Social Justice, Juvenile Rehabilitation, Restorative Justice, Racism, Meditation, Collective Consciousness Shift, Compassion, Ethnography
National Category
Philosophy, Ethics and Religion
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-352844OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-352844DiVA, id: diva2:1215238
Educational program
Master Programme in Religion in Peace and Conflict
Supervisors
Examiners
Available from: 2018-06-19 Created: 2018-06-08 Last updated: 2018-06-19Bibliographically approved

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