Monday, January 27, 2014

Reevaluation: the first step to faith-based justice work

A common thread between Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach S.J.’s article, “The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice in American Jesuit Higher Education” and Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” is how they present faith in the context of a mission for justice. As a foundational component to faith-infused justice missions, humility is presented as a crucial part of the missions’ realization in the form of reevaluation. An extracted quotation from Kolvenbach’s piece cites Fr. Arrupe who presents how important it is “to rethink all [the Society of Jesus’s] ministries and every form of its apostolates to see if they really offer a response to the urgent priorities which justice and social equity call for” (Kolvenbach, 24). The humility in “rethinking…to see if they really offer a response” signifies the willingness to accept if what they are doing is not enough. From that reevaluation, forward movement can begin toward answering “urgent priorities.” In a different conversation, different time period, and different contxt, though related to “urgent priorities,” King states, “I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen” (King, 8). King presents his stance and his relationship to the church. This is important in how one is to read his disappointment. Disappointment should not be an end-point of surrender, but rather an indication where change ought to happen. The syntactical use of five fragments, put together by a mix of conjunctions, a comma, and two semicolons presents the emotional tone and signifies the investment King puts into his work, based heavily on his faith. King is an example of what Kolvenbach is emphasizing: faith and justice are inseparable (Kolvenbach, 41). As a man of the church and as an advocate for freedom and equity, King, in a bigger picture, challenges people to reevaluate what a “just law” is, and what an unjust law corrupts. Kolvenbach challenges his community to seek the pockets of injustice and reevaluate the Society’s effectiveness and therefore, whether the mission, is actually moving forward.
What I personally relate to is the message about humility in reevaluation. This weekend, I attended the orientation for the Tunbridge/ Govans service sites. Something that stood out to me at the orientation was a discussion about "otherness." I'm talking particularly about the perception created by the freshman orientation slideshow (run by Campus Police) that use visual red marks setting York road apart as the "other," as a dangerous place to avoid at all times. I think Marie Anderson’s presentation unraveled that fallacious presentation, erased those red x marks, and really put a face to the community, bringing fairness back into perspective, eradicating the prejudice planting tainted lenses. As a freshman, I admit, I didn’t take the warnings seriously until two of my friends were held at gunpoint by a masked man. Still, I kept in mind that one person’s actions should not hold a whole community/ neighborhood responsible or demonized. Being fed more information than I ever expected to know about the York road community, Mrs. Anderson encouraged me and my fellow peers to reevaluate the prejudices we have and why we have them. I intend to keep in mind her message about what community means and apply it to my walk to the site, my work with the children, and my reflections. In connection to my pre-service thoughts, the Kolvenbach and King pieces challenge me to figure out what it means to put faith at the center of my service learning experience at Tunbridge.Before going into the site, I believe that when faith is at the center of the work, I think it will serve as a compass. I think that keeping in mind the purpose of the work will undoubtedly help foster a mindful, heart-invested, experience. As a big fan of children, and as a certified Montessori teacher's assistant, I am eager to work with and learn from the children at Tunbridge.

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