Solidarity in the Face of Oppresssion

A couple of weeks ago Fontbonne University offered the  Tunnel of Oppression to our campus, it is an experiential learning opportunity offered at universities and colleges that helps students, faculty and staff experience some of the feelings associated with people who encounter oppression whether that be racial, international, faith, a disability or people who are part of the LGBTQ community.  Nearly 375 people had a chance to experience this tunnel over a two day period.  It was an excellent opportunity that drew together many people of quite diverse backgrounds to bring awareness to the Fontbonne community about what many people face on a regular basis.

At the end of the two day experience there ended up being a group of students and graduate interns in my office processing some of what they had experienced both facilitating and participating in the tunnel.  It was impromptu and our discussion covered a vast array of topics, but one that seemed to continually arise was that although this experience was meaningful how could we as campus keep  the momentum going to engage people in deeper conversations and teach others the idea of solidarity with someone or a group who is oppressed. The tunnel was meant as a beginning step of awareness of oppressed populations, but what concrete actions can people of faith take to promoted solidarity and standing up for justice of oppressed populations.

People can be fickle in life, and influenced in negative ways just because there is a loud voice in a group that makes others in the group hesitant to speak against that loud voice even if they know what the voice is saying is contrary to fulfilling a greater good for all.  There were negative voices at the tunnel as well as sometimes no comment at all, people who were unable to speak up against the crowd for fear of rejection.  Yet there is a need to continue the conversation and offer actions that promote solidarity and justice.

This week of Holy Week is an excellent example of how group think or a loud voice can persuade others to follow a negative path that oppresses a group or person.  As Jesus entered into Jerusalem the crowds praised him and provided a hearty welcome to Jesus. Yet such a short time later that same crowd who was all for Jesus as he entered into Jerusalem was moved to support his crucifixion.  Loud voices drown out the message of Jesus being their king and promoting God’s kingdom for anger and jealousy.

How must we stand for those who experience oppression? What makes it difficult to be a positive voice when the majority is speaking a contrary message? How does our faith connect with working and promoting justice for the oppressed? ​

Lori Helfrich

Director of Campus Ministry

Fontbonne University

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