Here’s the thing about Gen Z: We’re tired, but we’re committed.
Young adults are some of the most disempowered people in our society, but many of us have been fighting for justice since we were in high school, if not earlier. As the “mass-shooting generation,” we haven’t had the luxury of waiting for established organizers to keep us safe. We’ve shown up to protests and hearings and summits, raising our voices for everything from clean water to environmental justice to gun control to queer and trans rights.
By the time we get to college, many of us are seasoned activists — but despite our fatigue, we’re in this for the long haul. We don’t have any other choice.
Spiritual Youth for Reproductive Freedom (SYRF) was originally launched in 2001 as a spiritually-based, pro-choice activist program on academic campuses across the United States. Among other programs, SYRF provided multi-faith fellowships for students to integrate their faith with their pursuit of reproductive freedom. At its height, the SYRF program comprised around 4,000 diverse activist leaders on 73 college campuses in 34 states.
Today, SYRF has a new generation of spiritual leaders. We re-launched in 2022, taking on the digital age and the unique issues facing Gen Z as activists and young adults of faith by building a network across campuses, religious denominations, community service organizations, and the world at large to build a network of compassionate, pro-choice, spiritual leaders. This SYRF is here for a generation of spiritual youth not just built on digital communication and social media but one that was politicized much younger and much more urgently than the generations before us. The urgency of our work is not theoretical: We are actively losing rights that our parents and even our grandparents took for granted.
On top of that, Gen Z is the most diverse generation America has ever seen. And that’s important — because Gen Z doesn’t just vote with our full selves; we also care with our full selves. We know that nothing exists in a vacuum and that every system of violence, from a lack of gun control to the erosion of reproductive freedom, is connected. We don’t just talk about abortion, religion, or justice but about the intersections in broader conversations about labor, climate change, economic injustice, and so much more.
We see that as a strength and encourage people to come to SYRF with their full selves. If you’re a person of faith who believes in reproductive freedom, we’re here for those conversations. We’ve hosted webinars and virtual forums, reached out through social media, and brought people together to talk about national and global topics relating to religion, reproductive rights, and justice. And with each conversation, our community grows.
Some of us bring deeply personal stories to SYRF. Some of us are driven by our faith and our values. All of us are ready to be the next generation of the religious movement for reproductive freedom.
Because religion doesn’t just belong to the people who try to weaponize it — it belongs to all of us. As people of faith, we have a duty to be the voice of justice and peace. Through SYRF and RCRC, we’re bringing our voices as young people of faith to translate agitation into meaningful change: breaking down stigma and opening new lines of conversation around faith and reproductive health. More than that, we need our generation to speak out and become leaders in this movement — because if we don’t, who will be there to be a voice for religious reproductive freedom once those who came before us are gone?
We might be a silenced generation, but we’re not silent. If enough of us speak, the world will listen. We’re empowering not just other youth but also our leaders to be lighthouses for others to come to, safe voices for reproductive justice conversations grounded in faith and support. We’re creating spaces where people can have hard talks but also learn practical ways to make a difference, even in a time when the risks inherent in reproductive justice work are growing. We’re helping young people fight social justice fatigue and approach reproductive justice with renewed energy and faith.
We’re building a movement. And we’re not going anywhere.
A-Nya Badger and Margaret Velto
Spiritual Youth for Reproductive Freedom, RCRC