If you have visited or work at a Jesuit school, you may have seen in the halls or classrooms a painted red chair and asked yourself, “what does this mean?” This red chair, or “silla roja”, is part of an initiative that was launched over 5 years ago in Spain and has since become a global symbol for the right to education for schools that are connected to the Society of Jesus.
The “La Silla Roja” campaign was started in 2012 by Entreculturas-Fe y Alegría Spain, an organization of the Society of Jesus, to defend the right to quality, inclusive education for the millions of children and youth around the world who are still unable to attend school. Students, teachers and administrators are invited to paint a chair red and place it in a strategic location in order to raise awareness and use this symbol as a reference to discuss the importance of education and the opportunities it creates in their own lives as well as how a lack of education negatively affects the lives and futures of those who are unable to exercise this fundamental human right.
In Spain, each year, the campaign has focused on different themes related to the right to education including access, quality, inclusion and equity, as well as education as key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and to protecting the earth. This year’s campaign in Spain is focused on schools that are in danger due to the violence generated from the exploitation of natural resources.
Through the support of Entreculturas, the campaign also expanded to other countries including Argentina, Uruguay, Peru, Ecuador, Chad and the United States. For example, in Ecuador, under the slogan “the chair that transforms lives” street actions and class activities have been carried out with the support of Fe y Alegría and Jesuit Refugee Service Ecuador.
Two years ago, Friends of Fe y Alegría in the US launched La Silla Roja campaign, working with schools, universities and parishes in the United States to raise awareness about the right to quality, inclusive education. The Hemispheres initiative, promoted by the Jesuit Schools Network, has been a key platform to help spread this message.
Last year, Entreculturas together with Friends of Fe y Alegría and Educate Magis joined forces to expand the reach of the campaign to 22 schools from 9 different countries. Launching the “Global Red Chair Project” through the Educate Magis’ online community, which is promoted by the Education Secretariat of the Society of Jesus, has enabled this concrete call to action to reach educational institutions, teachers and educators linked with the Society of Jesus from all of the world. This year’s joint campaign is focused on exploring together the root causes and consequences of this lack of access, asking questions such as:
Why are there 264 million children and youth out-of-school worldwide? Why is education so important? How does education, or a lack thereof, affect our human rights? Why should I care? What can I do about it?
We invite you to learn more about this exciting example of collaboration amongst Jesuit institutions and initiatives and get involved today!