Confronting a World of Hatred
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Confronting a World of Hatred with God's Grace and Power
As you have frequently heard, we share a commitment here at Andrews University for each individual to understand and respond to the daunting challenges and incredible assignment to become and be World Changers for God.
As we think about those responsibilities, we are reminded that during the 2018–2019 school year, our world has been marked by an unbelievable array of tragedies, including threats even in our own neighborhood here in southwest Michigan.
In particular, these past nine months have included attacks on a Jewish synagogue in Philadelphia, on two Muslim mosques in Christchurch, and then on three Christian cathedrals on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka. In these attacks, a dozen, later 50 and then more than 250 were killed in the separate attacks that have spanned our globe.
Even in the final days before our spring graduation, there was a bomb threat against the Islamic Association of Southwest Michigan right here in Benton Harbor as well as an attack that left one dead in a southern California Jewish synagogue.
As I reflect on these horrific incidents of the past year, my heart joins with yours in deploring and mourning the hatred and violence that led to this unrelenting array of threats, injury and death for those who gather to worship in these places of faith around the world.
And as my heart is broken in these moments, I’m also reminded that we often do not take time, or even seem to have enough meaningful time, to pause and mourn these awful moments in the world. We find it hard to take the time to recognize these life-taking and life-altering events suffered by our sisters and brothers—those who are truly our neighbors—wherever they live and worship in this world.
As a result, I find myself convicted that these awful and horrifying incidents are an ongoing reminder that this world we seek to change for God is not our ultimate home—it is only a way station in our yearning and journey toward the promise of heaven. As we wait to enter into that heavenly home, I am reminded that we have been called by God—as Jesus called His 12 disciples—to proclaim to the world that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. It is because of that reality that we can, as motivated by the Spirit, be God’s hands and feet to a world that so desperately needs the healing that His kingdom can provide.
Amidst these realities, I’d like to invite us as Andrews University, and as a Michiana community, to pause for a moment as the summer fast approaches to seek, recognize and proclaim God’s presence and answers that are so desperately and frequently needed in a world so often marked by hatred, terror and even death.
Throughout the terrible reality that ricochets through our lives, places of worship and communities around the globe, I am convinced that each one of us can and should daily take on the personal and community responsibility, imbued with God’s grace and love, to model and be the positive and powerful change that is so desperately needed and so often missing in our world.
In turn, I’d like to specifically invite us to consider and adopt practical and effective responses to the hatred we encounter in our society against faith and those who believe —especially and increasingly found in the social media sphere.
As we see time and again, social media offers an environment, a petri dish of dark intentions, where hatred sometimes spreads quickly and often takes tragic root for those who read and embrace the messages that call the individuals consuming them to a worldview and life marked by stereotypes, hatred and violence.
For an example of an effective response to this kind of hatred, the New Zealand government introduced in the aftermath of the Christchurch attacks what has been called the “Christchurch Call to Action,” which included social media companies and other governments around the world as signatories.
That Christchurch Call to Action included a commitment to “Work with civil society to promote community-led efforts to counter violent extremism in all its forms, including through the development and promotion of positive alternatives and counter-messaging.” (You can read the entire statement here.)
The Southern Poverty Law Center (which has sought to monitor and fight against hate groups for nearly five decades) has published a guide called “Ten Ways To Fight Hate”—and that advice includes an encouragement to:
"Promote acceptance and address bias before another hate crime can occur.
“…(you can) expand your comfort zone by reaching out to people outside your own groups.
“Hate usually doesn’t strike communities from some distant place. It often begins at home, brewing silently under the surface. It can grow out of divided communities—communities where residents feel powerless or voiceless, communities where differences cause fear instead of celebration.
“The best cure for hate is a united community.”
So, as we move into these summer months, with study tours, intensive coursework, holidays and preparation for the 2019–2020 school year at Andrews University filling the days and weeks ahead, I’d like to invite you to join me in an ongoing season of passionate prayer and commitment. Let us reflect on the sadness, anger and hatred that too often wound our world and too often target even the places where believers seek to worship and pray.
I urge you to personally and consistently push back against hatred and bigotry in any and all of its forms whenever and wherever you encounter it—both as an individual and as a member of this community.
As we all seek these positive and effective responses to hatred, while also seeking to achieve positive and lasting change for God in this world, I also pray that Andrews will continue to be a place where all feel that they are welcomed and belong—regardless of our individual religious background or affiliation.
Please join with me in making that same commitment, to create safe and inclusive spaces for all, as you personally seek to be the change that God has inspired you to make in a world that so desperately and so often needs it.
May God bless our journey to be World Changers for Him.