Every year at Bellarmine, the school community embarks on a journey to learn about a current issue that has enacted injustice on people around the world, while discussing solutions to fix the problem and restore justice. We interviewed the school president, Mr. Meyercord about the Justice Summit this year, and what experiences it provides.
1. What is the main focus of this year’s Justice Summit?
“The focus of this year’s Justice Summit is economic injustice, with a particular focus on water.”
All over the world, and especially in poorer developing countries, approximately 663 million people live without access to clean drinking water, according to the Thirst Project. In these same countries, citizens, mostly children, constantly die from waterborne illnesses and walk an average of 3.75 miles to find clean water for consumption. This lack of water access often negatively affects a family’s ability to raise their economic standing. Most of the water finding burden is placed on women and young girls, and the constant walking means that there is no time to get a job and financially contribute to the family’s well-being.
2. Why should this issue be important to the Bellarmine community?
“It’s our call as a Jesuit school. Everybody at our school is called to be men and women for and with others. We are also called as Catholics. Our faith tradition calls us to care for the poor, and we as a community can learn a lot from the poor.”
Just because this issue does not affect us directly, there is no excuse to ignore it as a school focused on the values of social justice. It is our duty as younger people to begin lasting discussions about these issues that will hopefully develop into permanent solutions.
3. How will the Bellarmine community help resolve the issue of economic injustice?
“On Monday, October 14, 850 filters will be built after school to provide clean water to those who need it. Additionally, during the winter months, Bellarmine will partner with SafePark, which provides a safe place to park for people living in their cars. People with nowhere else to go can park on campus to stay the night.”
As mortgages and rents get increasingly out of reach, more people are either moving out or becoming homeless in the Bay Area. This has created an urban environment where sleeping bags on sidewalks and tents along highways are a common occurrence. However, rather than work to make homes more affordable for the less fortunate, many cities are using hostile architecture, like curved or misshapen benches that prevent the homeless from sleeping.
This leaves cars as a last resort, but police and property owners often force the unwelcome visitors to relocate. Bellarmine refuses to shun the homeless like many other businesses and city planners, granting people solace from the cold of the weather, and the cold shoulder of their communities.
4. Bellarmine has done previous Summits relating to poverty. What does this Summit have in common with other Summits surrounding poverty? What sets it apart?
“The first Justice Summit was in 2009 on world hunger, and a few years later we held another one on poverty. These ended up being very similar. However, today’s students are different from those in 2009. Economic injustice is still a sad reality, so it’s important that every year of students experiences a poverty-centered Summit. Through the years, Justice Summits have also developed to be more focused on action than learning.”
Things have changed so much since the first 2009 Justice Summit. Society has advanced a ridiculous amount in the fields of science, medicine, and technology, and exploration. And yet, in a world where people have more access to information than ever before, poverty remains unchanged. Therefore, until poverty ceases to exist, the message must continue to be taught to year after year of Bellarmine students.
5. Is there a better way to transition from a previous year into a new Summit topic? “Bellarmine is continuing to work on the Justice Summits every year. The implementation of a transition into a new topic in one of the many plans for improvement in the future. We don’t leave issues in the rearview mirror.”
Often times the start of a new school year can bring a lot of sudden transitions. Sleep schedules are interrupted, classes and teachers are introduced, and a new Justice Summit is begun, all on the first day. This leaves students with so many things to adjust to that event from the past school year that can be easily forgotten in the shock of new information. It’s not helpful if the knowledge of injustice goes in the left ear and out the right. The injustice doesn’t stop when the school year does, so reminding students of issues still needing to be solved is essential to Bellarmine’s social justice values.
Does this Justice Summit affect any members of our various communities?
“People absolutely struggle in our communities. We have students who struggle financially, but people all over the Bay Area struggle too, not just Bellarmine. High living expenses impact people in neighborhoods surrounding our school. This realization is driven home by the urban plunge, and Bellarmine’s financial aid program.”
every year of students must experience mentioned before that some people, inside and outside the community, believe that the Justice Summit issues do not direct us, and thus do not warrant our attention. Even if this were true, the argument would still be false, because they do affect us directly. If we want to truly call ourselves members of the Bay Area, then we should take it upon ourselves to serve those who reside there with us. We need to start making changes, which we can do through campaigning. We can donate money to organizations like SafePark and the Thirst Project, and we can tell our representatives to stop fighting the homeless with spikes and barred benches. Even if it’s small, we are called to set the world on fire, and all a fire needs is a spark.