Sofia Speaks For Faith

Speak For Faith 2019, is a Catholic Schools public speaking competition aimed at providing Senior Secondary Religious Education students with the opportunity to speak on Christian ethics and Catholic ethos, while developing their public speaking skills.

Year 12 student, Sofia Basso Betancourt took on the challenge, and on Monday night won the overall competition, progressing into the final after her first heat on Saturday 3 August. Sofia competed against five other finalists from Western Australian schools. She was required to deliver a five-minute prepared speech, and then a one-minute impromptu speech on an unknown topic.

Peter Higgins from the Religious Education and Faith Formation Team at CEWA said, “The adjudicators and others attending the heats were very impressed by the standard of the speeches. The content and delivery of the speeches indicated deep learning, solid preparation and a readiness to speak with conviction. The responses to the impromptu question also allowed speakers to demonstrate their depth of understanding of Catholic teaching generally.”

We asked Sofia about the competition and why she decided to enter.

 Why did you decide to enter?
I was intrigued when I first read the email regarding the competition and never thought it would be something I could get involved in. However, when my Religion teacher asked if I would like to participate, it came at a time where I was reflecting on my faith and I took it as a sign to pursue it.

What was your topic?
My topic was about how we are all living in a culture of fear, and that the solution to this problem is to draw on God’s love and be vessels of love in the world.

Why was this topic important to you?
When brainstorming ideas, I realised the reoccurring themes that would appear were ones of fear. We fear the unknown and we fear the familiar. It can be very easy to feel lost in a world that blasts us with issues and headlines that challenge our safety and hope for humanity.  However, it is very possible that by drawing on the value of love, we can instigate a global change fostered by compassion, empathy and love. It is important we all realise the capability of God’s love in reconciling our hearts, broken bonds and entire nations. All it takes is a willingness to choose love over fear.

Do you feel it’s important for youth to speak up about their faith, why?
I believe it is incredibly important. The youth are the future in shaping a world we are yet to see, they hold the power to change the direction of humanity for good, or for worse. In this hedonistic and quite secular society, it can feel challenging to express views of faith without being ridiculed or shamed. However, universal themes of all religions are ones of love and peace, and by encouraging the youth to speak up about these very values we can create a global system that priorities empathy and interconnection.

Here is Sofia’s speech. “El amor es mas fuerte”. Love is stronger. In 1987, Pope John Paul II spoke these words on his Chilean pilgrimage. No one could anticipate the capacity of this statement in reconciling a divided society. It was words of love that returned God into the hearts of citizens who were fearful of their future.

32 years on, and the world is currently at an age of great divide. Climate change, asylum seekers, religious scrutiny, political gridlock. These global issues are part of the fabric of the human race, contributing to the unfolding narrative of our legacy. However, in this progressive century, our subjection to statements, headlines and situations are evoking excessive fear. A biological response aimed to save us, is now hurting us.

We are living in a culture of fear, and without God’s love in the world, there is no safety for humanity.

As a Catholic, it has become challenging to develop an ecumenical discussion in a disconnected society. What I have come to realise however, is that love is the most powerful Catholic value that has the ability to transcend our prejudices, sufferings and fears. As Chapter 4 of John tells us, there is no fear in love, that whoever lives in love lives in God. Therefore, when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment in the law was, his response encompassed love for one another and God. The Catechism also teaches us that ‘love causes a desire for the absent of good and the hope of obtaining it’. Therefore, as Catholics, it is our duty to be channels through which loves energy can flow through.

However, it can be challenging to actively live God’s mission of love on Earth. The response of fear is now being manipulated to vilify our neighbours.

Fraser Anning in 2018 confidently stated that all terrorists these days are Muslims. To categorise all Muslims as the predators we should be afraid of, creates a society that is scared, reactive, and unable to uphold the principle of human dignity.

Likewise, the attacks in Sudan, Christchurch and Virginia Beach has seen a year of senseless loss. Although we may fear the direction of humanity, it is in these times we are called to turn to God and trust him. It was Christ’s trust in God that he not only died out of love for us, but he died even when we were still his enemies. So, in this age of fear, the Lord calls us to make ourselves the neighbour to every human, to seek the goodness in all, because in God’s love there are no prejudices.

Now, how can love be our priority? Like overcoming personal fears, transforming a culture requires a deep change in mindset. Yes, love is the strongest force in the universe, however without the inner freedom, it is merely change with no difference. Inner freedom allows us to love, forgive, dream and start over. It is time we all take responsibility to establish within ourselves the kingdom of God. Because once we have God’s love within us, we have the ability to change the world. As Prime Minister, Jacinda Arden stood with empathetic strength following the Christchurch massacre, let’s find our strength in loving one another as God teaches us.

Because love is power, love could be your power. The gift of love from God has the power to amend broken bonds, inspire a nation and even change our lives. No amount of technology can eradicate the problems that trouble humanity. It’s time that as Catholics, we unite with all and change the rules. We have the ability to be the first generation to instigate a positive change, a change that can only be done with love. Because choosing love over fear is the most selfless gift we can give to all people now, and in the future. So, what will we be remembered for? Will it be for a world that we saved through love or a world we left behind in fear?

Thank you.

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