Racial justice and beloved community

Racial justice and beloved community

Written on 10/30/2020
Winnie Lui

Peace-seekers and agents of hope on a university campus

Written by Winnie Lui

In his 1963 sermon “A Knock at Midnight,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lamented, “Millions of Africans have patiently knocked on the door of the Christian church seeking the bread of social justice. In almost every instance they have either been ignored altogether, or told to wait until later—later almost always meaning never.”

In fresh ways, the pain of King’s generation lives on in ours.

The possibilities before us

King believed Christians are called to become a “beloved community”—a gathering of people who have come to the powerful realization that they all matter to God.

One community seeking to honour King’s vision this year is Trinity Western University, a Christian university in Langley, B.C.

“The world is in desperate need of a gathering of Christians moved to resist the powers and principalities of evil by loving their enemies with the agape love of God,” says president Mark Husbands.

In a recent message to begin the academic year, Husbands challenged student leaders on his campus. “In a broken world, peace, flourishing, and renewal call for leaders who understand the situation in which they find themselves,” he says. “Does your understanding and grasp of the gospel include both word and deed? And if so, have you figured out a way to carry out both of these with integrity?”

A new generation of leaders

Among those listening to Husband’s message that week was student leader Daniela Lombardo.

When Lombardo first considered coming from Mexico to Canada for university, she didn’t imagine that three years later she would be the school’s first Latina student to become student association president.

Lombardo’s leadership journey has not been without challenges. She grew up in a single-parent home. In high school, she completed the challenging International Baccalaureate program before leaving home for postsecondary studies.

In her second year at university, Lombardo became a resident assistant. The following year, she became involved in student government, advocating for cultural groups and fostering greater connection among schools and faculties. One of her initiatives was the creation of an interdisciplinary newsletter.

The global community among us

At Trinity Western, one in four students come from outside of Canada.

“As a global Christian university, hospitality and charity are central to our identity,” says Lombardo. “Living in one of the most diverse cities in the world with an increasingly international population requires constant learning.”

During her election speech this past spring, she expressed her vision to see the campus be a place of welcome. “Accessibility and community are tangible ways we can show hospitality,” she says, “The best change is the change that benefits all of us.”

Ideas for change

Several students have asked Lombardo and her student association team to advocate for increased cultural understanding from university staff and faculty. Building on work done in previous years by the university’s International Student Task Force, Lombardo and her team moved quickly to envision and plan a cultural intelligence training program for staff and faculty.

The preface to the training proposal cites Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

“In biblical terms, becoming a ‘glocal’ campus means helping our community become an accurate portrayal of the kingdom of God—where people from every tribe, language, and nation come together as brothers and sisters in the family of God,” says Johannah Wetzel, Trinity Western’s director of global engagement.

The International Student Task Force hopes to see the university become a place where community thrives. This involves an environment where everyone is willing to ask questions, admit ignorance, take responsibility for cultural mistakes, recognize biases, and grow collectively by learning from and accepting one another.

Learning is a good first step. Husbands reminds this generation, “God has set us free, so let us use this freedom in order to advance His kingdom and to be agents of hope.”