Persevere in the Truth: You’re Not Alone


The four days of the International Solidarity Forum (ISF) were packed with lectures and presentations from experts and distinguished speakers. Professor Carlo Lancelloti spoke about the “new form of totalitarianism” that has taken over our contemporary times; Dr. Ethan Haim, shared his story as a whistleblower, exposing the secret transgender program at the world’s largest children’s hospital; Mr. Cheng Guangcheng, a human rights lawyer and advocate, has risked his life in bringing awareness to the crimes of the CCP; and WYA’s very own Mislav Barisic and Clare Halpine, spoke about the history of Marxism and the impact of language in the pervasive creep of ideology.

During a break at the ISF I went to the entrance of WYA Headquarters and found Caroline Maingi, a founding staff member for WYA in Africa, chatting with a couple delegates. Caroline shared with us the story of WYA’s beginnings. She spoke about the struggles and hardships. She said several people didn’t believe in the WYA movement. Despite criticism (and borderline hostility) from opponents, Anna, Caroline, and the rest of the team persevered.

I stayed, listening to Caroline’s story. Bit by bit, more and more delegates gathered to listen in the entrance foyer. Soon, the room was packed with ISF participants from every corner of the world, sharing the same mission from 25 years ago. While it was a short moment amidst the week’s intensity, I believe it encapsulates the spirit of the International Solidarity Forum.

In a world overtaken by totalitarian ideologies seeking to undermine the truth and attack the dignity of the person, there is hope. Advocacy requires perseverance and a fearless confidence in the truth. While it is not easy, we aren’t alone in this struggle; a fact reinforced by the experience of meeting impressive young people from around the world who are dedicated to the WYA mission.

In between lectures, participants engaged in deep discussion, playing with the new ideas and perspectives from the speakers. Our conversations drew from both the lectures and the readings we were provided. Hearing pertinent anecdotes from other delegates, especially their experiences with totalitarian ideologies in their societies, impressed me. 

The forum was followed by rigorous negotiations on this year’s WYA Declaration on Human Dignity and Totalitarian Ideologies. It was enlightening to hear the perspectives of other delegations and how language was interpreted differently. We all agreed on the central message of our Declaration, but the negotiations required hashing out the important details. Negotiations were filled with stimulating discussions and passionate debates: reaching consensus was more challenging than I anticipated. With representation from around the world, we agreed, disagreed, and worked together to produce a text we all would be proud of. After several days and many hours, I believe we accomplished this goal.

This year’s ISF was intellectually rewarding but also remarkably inspiring. I learned so much and we quickly became a big family. The last day of the ISF was the hardest part, but now I have friends around the globe— I think that’s pretty awesome.

Written by Max Yun, ‘Outstanding Delegate’ for ISF 2024.

Published April 29, 2024

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