During the week of Mar. 7, the Mount hosted a week-long advocacy event entitled, “For a More Just World.” This was a collaborative effort between the Office of Social Justice, Center for Student Diversity, Campus Ministry, Student Government Association, Amnesty International, the Mount Students for Justice, among others. All groups hope to make this an annual event.
“The Social Justice efforts are meant to give people the opportunity to recognize their responsibility in large social issues,” said Kaitlin Cotreau, the Mount’s Social Justice Coordinator.
Throughout the week, the School of Education held a supplies drive for a school in Belize, and Amnesty International held a clothing drive to help those impacted by the refugee crisis. Also throughout the week, over 30 professors got involved by holding a “teach-in” within their classrooms to relate the subject of racial inequality to their lessons.
“I saw a renewed commitment to creating a more just world,” sophomore Mary Hearon said, commenting on her experience of the events.
Other events that took place included the Maryland March for Life, a letter-writing campaign and a courageous conversation about terrorists and activists.
Senior student Maria Sofia, President of the Mount’s chapter of Amnesty International led the initiative of the letter-writing campaign. She and other members of the chapter gathered over 100 signatures from community members.
“We had a great turnout of students in Patriot that signed our Human Rights Pledge, and learned information about latest human rights violations around the world,” Sofia said. They took action on topics such as poverty in the U.S., the refugee crisis, police brutality and women’s issues in the Middle East and Africa.
On Mar. 12, the Office of Social Justice led both on- and and off-campus trips. Service was performed at People’s Homesteading in Baltimore, Silence of Mary, Odyssey Assisted Living Center and Frederick Housing Authority. The week concluded with Campus Ministry hosting Live Stations of the Cross.
“Our week on campus for a more just world reminded us of our mission as Catholics to love and serve the poor and struggling around us, to love as Jesus loved,” said freshman Pat Collins, a leader for Campus Ministry.
Earlier in the week, Campus Ministry also held a prayer service for peace and justice.
“It was very appropriate in this Year of Mercy, initiated by Pope Francis, than the Mount community united for a week devoted to justice, especially racial and economic justice,” said senior Andrew McCarthy, also a leader in Campus Ministry. McCarthy is grateful for Campus Ministry’s contribution to this week, which helped the Mount answer her call to live justice through prayer, education and activism.
Dr. David Ragland, a professor of peace and conflict studies at Juniata College, gave the keynote address on Mar. 10.
“What we think as the past is usually very much present,” he began.
Ragland, originally from St. Louis, Mo., only 12 miles away from Ferguson, shared some of the struggles he has faced as an African-American. He emphasized that, American citizens need to stand up for their society and all of the people within it.
He reflected on how the country has changed since his childhood days; in some ways for better, he said, some for worse. But as people thought things were getting better, “all of a sudden their lives became unhinged,” he reflected. Recounting his time in Ferguson, he said that the city showed a new kind of consciousness.
Ragland focused on the problems in society that date back to slavery and the Civil Rights Movement. “It isn’t about blaming police, it’s about blaming a society that lets this happen,” he said.
As he introduced his project, called “The Truth Telling Project,” he shared that one of the first steps to restorative justice is truth telling, sharing those often-difficult experiences.
“We came up with the notion of truth telling,” Ragland said. “For anyone who studies restorative justice or truth and reconciliation, one of the first steps is truth telling. People come and share their experience of what happened. There’s a value on whose voice is important and whose voice is not important.”
This is especially powerful when we “listen to people we don’t usually listen to” because it is about liberation and connecting with others whose truths are similar.
Ragland ended by appealing the audience to “think for yourself and stand up when you see injustice.”
“If you don’t speak up or stand out in college, then you never will,” he said. “This is where you are getting your formation in life. You are setting habits here.”
The Social Justice Week, with all its events, was emblematic of the Mount and its Catholic mission. In McCarthy’s words, “As a Catholic university, we must always look to Christ in the gospels who is the perfect example of mercy and justice.”