Here at Andrews, we explore how diverse peoples have enriched the human experience and develop the interpersonal abilities to respect, appreciate and interact with those of different races, ethnicities, genders, ages, abilities, experiences and backgrounds. This blog is one method of said exploration.
Managed by Michael T. Nixon, vice president for Diversity & Inclusion, this blog is a place for thoughtful discourse on all issues surrounding these important topics which need to be regularly addressed.
I hope this message finds you all doing well during these uncertain times. As has been said many times before, our current state of affairs driven by the COVID-19 pandemic has not been easy, but it is my prayer that we will continue to journey through it together.
I wanted to quickly update you on two important initiatives that our campus will take on over the next two weeks.
We will be hosting our 8th Annual Summit on Social Consciousness on Thursday, April 23, at 6:30 p.m. This year’s summit will operate under the theme “COVID-19: Understanding and Breaking the Socio-Economic and Racial Disparities.” As more data has been accumulated about the effects of this disease, it has become clear, both in Michigan and across the country, that minority communities have been hit the hardest.
The Summit is co-sponsored by Spectrum Health Lakeland, the Andrews University Office for Diversity & Inclusion, our Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Campus Center, the Office of Research & Creative Scholarship, and the Office of the Provost. Since we are in many different locations this spring semester, our Summit will stream live from the Andrews University Facebook page and will be a part of our Andrews Speaks podcast series (co-curricular credit is available for students).
The issues we’ll cover in this Summit have also been a point of emphasis for the government’s pandemic response team. In Michigan, even though African Americans make up only 14 percent of the population, they account for 40 percent of the state’s coronavirus deaths to date. African Americans account for 67 percent of the deaths in Chicago and 70 percent of the deaths in Louisiana. In New York City, the U.S. epicenter of this pandemic, Latinos represent 34 percent and African Americans represent 28 percent of COVID-19 related deaths—both disproportionate to their percentage of the population.
During the Summit, we will seek to carefully explore some of the core reasons for these disparities and discuss what they reveal to us about the inequities that predated this pandemic; how the pandemic has worsened those inequities; and the policies we can advocate for to begin the process of addressing, even and especially in the heart of this pandemic, with its threats to our communities.
Please join us on April 23 and feel free to bring any questions or comments you have as we seek to create an interactive and productive dialogue during this significant Summit on Social Consciousness.
This got somewhat lost in the shuffle of all the pandemic news, but throughout the month of April, the 2020 United States Census count has been happening all across the country. And even with shelter-in-place guidelines in effect, you can still make sure you are counted right from where you are! An accurate count is critical in order for Berrien County to receive our fair share of federal funds. You may not know that the Census count determines how much funding Berrien County will receive over the next 10 years for roads, school lunches, education, housing, transportation, Medicare, Medicaid and much more.
The county’s population also determines how many lawmakers represent us in Washington D.C.
You are counted as a resident in the county you were considered a permanent resident in as of April 1, 2020. For some of you, that is likely to have changed, so be sure to follow the census instructions in the county where you currently reside.
It is also important to note that you do not have to be a U.S. citizen in order to be counted in the Census. The Census counts every person living in the U.S. as of April 1, 2020, including non-citizens, legal residents and temporary or seasonal workers. Also, the information you share on the census is, by federal law, kept private and confidential and can only be used for statistical purposes. Regardless of where you are living right now, you can find all of the information you need to fill out the Census online, via mail or via phone here.
If you currently reside in Berrien County, as of April 1, the online “BE COUNTED BERRIEN 2020” frequently asked questions page can be found here.
I encourage you to make sure that you are counted! It will make a big difference in your community—wherever you live.
Thank you all for engaging in these important initiatives. If there is anything that our Diversity & Inclusion office can do for you during these challenging times, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for further assistance.
Grace and peace,
Michael Nixon, Vice President
Diversity & inclusion
It is my distinct privilege to take a few moments to recognize Women’s History Month. It began in 1980 as Women’s History Week through a proclamation by President Jimmy Carter and has been recognized in March ever since 1995. Women’s History Month is an annual opportunity to remember that the achievements, leadership, courage, strength and love of the women who built America were, in the words of President Carter, “as vital as that of the men whose names we know so well.”
The 2020 Women’s History Month theme, selected by the National Women’s History Alliance (NWHA), is Valiant Women of the Vote. The NWHA explained this theme was chosen in order to celebrate "the brave women who fought to win suffrage rights for women, and for the women who continue to fight for the voting rights of others.” This of course brings to mind the powerful Women’s Suffrage movement in the early 1900s, which helped lead to the creation of the 19th Amendment securing women’s right to vote. This also brings to mind the many women who continued to fight in the 1960s for legislation such as the Voting Rights Act which ensured that the voting rights of women of all racial and ethnic backgrounds were secured and protected.
International Women’s Day is Sunday, March 8. This year’s theme is #EachforEqual, which is rooted in the pursuit of a “gender-equal” world. The theme “is drawn from a notion of 'Collective Individualism.' We are all parts of a whole. Our individual actions, conversations, behaviors and mindsets can have an impact on our larger society. Collectively, we can make change happen. Collectively, we can each help to create a gender equal world.”
During this time of heightened political activity, it would be fitting to take a moment not simply to reflect on your potential candidate of choice but rather to think about the women who have gone before us to ensure that we all have the right to express our desire for a more perfect union through our ability to vote. We should also thank all of the people who continue to fight to ensure that this right is protected so that more and more citizens are able to participate in the political process.
I would like to invite you to join our campus celebration in the following ways during this upcoming weekend:
Also, later in the month:
Many of you will remember our Rise Up Against Abuse Rally, which was held last year during this month. During the last week of the month (March 23–30), our campus will have another opportunity to experience the Solidarity Wall. The goal of this initiative is to raise awareness on issues of abuse that are largely directed toward women and to stand in solidarity with survivors who continue to carry the weight of what they endured. It is our hope that this demonstration of solidarity, empathy and compassion can help to make that load a little bit lighter as we stand alongside one another and walk forward in victory together.
I am excited about this wonderful opportunity to celebrate the many contributions and achievements of all of the amazing women around us. I will leave you with a quote from one of my favorite authors, the incomparable Maya Angelou:
“Seek patience and passion in equal amounts.
Patience alone will not build the temple.
Passion alone will destroy its walls.”
VP for Diversity & Inclusion
As you know, our community joins with the world right now as we globally seek to understand and respond to the implications and spread of the new Coronavirus (now officially called “Covid-19”).
At this point in time, the impact of the disease continues to be tragically and largely focused in China and specifically in the city and province where the virus was first identified at the end of last year. Current reports suggest that nearly all of the more than 43,000 cases confirmed worldwide, and all but two of the more than 1,000 reported deaths, have occurred in China and most within that city and province where the virus was first identified.
As you may have read, the virus was first publicly identified by a 34-year-old ophthalmologist Dr. Li Wenliang. Dr. Li, in the face of official reprimands by local authorities for “spreading rumours,” continued to care for those who had the disease, which he later contracted. A few days ago, he was another one of the hundreds who have died from the NCP virus.
Amidst these overwhelming details and statistics, there are also some small measures of hope—as of late Monday, reports indicate that more than 3,300 individuals have recovered from the disease.
However, I’m writing today not simply to provide an update on the medical risks and impact of this newly discovered virus. Instead, I want to reflect directly on the unreasonable fear that sometimes accompanies the ways we perceive, welcome and care for each other within our Andrews University community, especially at challenging moments like these.
In this particular situation with global healthcare risks, we discover that sometimes the most immediate fear is often about the “other” person in our midst. At times we may even perceive those individuals or groups to be a potential and direct risk to our own health or safety, based solely on the individual’s appearance or cultural heritage rather than documented health risk factors.
Over the last several days, I’ve had the privilege of talking about these concerns and realities with several of our Asian students, each of whom comes from a variety of home countries, including China. In addition to those conversations, I’ve received letters from Asian members of our University community, including one on Friday morning which included these disappointing details:
“… I have been asked on a daily basis if I had the Coronavirus by complete strangers just because I'm Asian. (However)...I have never exhibited any behavior that would indicate that I'm sick. People…either literally slam doors in my face, or visibly avoid being in contact with me by moving their seats away (from me) in class, or make questionable remarks when they catch me wearing a face mask…”
This particular letter and other recent conversations have indicated to me that concerns like these move beyond simply a fear of contracting a disease to having a perspective that’s influenced by xenophobic fears or racist tropes against our Asian community members, on this campus or around the world.
I’m reminded in this context that the Andrews University community is on a complicated, and sometimes challenging journey to understand and achieve the ultimate benefits of a diverse, inclusive and beloved community that reflects the values of God’s kingdom.
This is clearly a moment where we are called to do and be truly different as we respond to and care for each other. I hope that each one of us will commit to serving as understanding allies and friends to the rich diversity of students on our campus—where each one of us is better understood, more valued, and increasingly accepted and included.
In my role as vice president for Diversity & Inclusion, I would also like to take this opportunity to solicit ideas on how we can continue to highlight and affirm the Asian/Asian-American student and employee experience here at Andrews. During the month of February, I think often about how much of a personal privilege it is to take part in celebrating my own culture and heritage (which I am always reminded is a year-round opportunity).
As a result, I can think of no better gift to offer during a month like Black History Month than to also seek and create spaces for our campus community to talk together more thoughtfully and carefully about how we can also celebrate and affirm Asian/Asian-American students. I have also been extremely pleased to see a number of our student groups representing students from outside of the African Diaspora (namely KASA—our Korean American Student Association) who have joined us in celebrating blackness during this month.
I continue to be committed to serving as an ally and advocate on these issues, even amidst these difficult steps in our shared journey, to help ensure that we do better going forward. Please reach out to me (you can email me here) so we can discuss how to consistently do this successfully as we move forward.
May God bless us in these commitments to support each other as we continue to monitor, understand and respond to the actual risks and factors connected with this global disease.
VP for Diversity & Inclusion
“Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ~ Howard Thurman
This weekend, as we once again commemorate the life and legacy of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I wanted to introduce to some, and re-introduce to others, a lesser-known figure who served as one of the spiritual anchors of the civil rights movement. That person is none other than Reverend Howard Thurman. Born in 1899, Thurman, a grandson of former enslaved persons, stressed education as a means of overcoming racial discrimination.
He graduated as valedictorian from Morehouse College with a Bachelor of Arts in economics in 1923 and from Rochester Theological Seminary (now Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School) with a Bachelor of Divinity in 1926. He subsequently served as pastor of a Baptist church in Oberlin, Ohio, and pursued graduate course work in theology at Oberlin College. A meeting in 1934 with Mohandas K. Gandhi instilled within Thurman an appreciation for the value of nonviolent resistance in combating racial inequality.
In 1944 he left Howard to help found the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples (also known as Fellowship Church) in San Francisco, the first congregation in the United States that encouraged participation in its spiritual life regardless of religious or ethnic background. Thurman stayed there until 1953, when he assumed the deanship of Boston University’s Marsh Chapel. This was the first time that an African American had assumed such a deanship at a traditionally white American university.
Thurman, who was a classmate of Dr. King’s father at Morehouse, had MLK Jr. as a student while he served at Boston University. It was there where King was introduced to the powerful tenets of nonviolent resistance in combating racial inequality. Among the many books that Reverend Thurman authored was the seminal “Jesus and the Disinherited” which Dr. King kept in his coat pocket wherever the Civil Rights movement took him. It served as a source of spiritual strength and guiding light to him as he led that movement alongside others.
As we spend some time this weekend reflecting on the writings of Reverend Thurman, I'd also like to invite us to remember Dr. King's legacy as a man who certainly committed himself to that what which made him “come alive”—even to death—as Thurman posited. With that example in mind, I alsoo encourage you to spend some time this weekend asking yourself the same question: what makes me come alive? What was I put on this planet to do? It is my prayer that as we all thoughtfully consider this question, the Spirit of God would reveal to us (or bring back to our memory) our reason for being.
Let us all be a community that commits ourselves to be world changers, not simply by asking what the world needs but instead who the world needs—each and every one of us operating as the fully alive versions of ourselves that God created us to be.
“So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime—the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment.” ~ Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
As we near the end of our fall semester here at Andrews University, I wanted to pause and take a moment to give you all this invitation to take the opportunity to think about how everyone in our global community celebrates some of these important moments and days during the upcoming holiday season, both in recent weeks and in the closing weeks of 2019.
These are all times when we as family, friends and fellow community members come together and express gratitude for all God has done throughout the year and look forward to what the upcoming year may have in store. However, it is also a time when we remember all of those around us who are less fortunate than we may be—a remembrance that motivates us into action so we can fill any voids that may exist and be the family and community they so desperately need.
In that spirit of remembering, here are some ways we can honor and value those who are around us during this holiday season:
As we enter this holiday season, I hope this invitation and these reminders of our shared history and journeys—some of them heartbreaking and against God’s plans for His children—have inspired you to perhaps approach the way that you celebrate and understand these weeks and the holidays they contain a bit differently.
While it is important to have fun and to unwind, I again invite you to take the opportunity, both individually and collectively, to reflect on the history that is at the foundation of these holidays we love and celebrate. They are all important opportunities for us to lean into the stories that make us all unique and valuable as we seek to understand the collective journeys that have led us all to this beloved community.
Grace, peace and love to you all during this holiday season of remembrance.
Michael Nixon, Vice President
Diversity & Inclusion
As we reflect on Hispanic Heritage Month which came to an end yesterday (October 15), I wanted to provide an invitation to some other ways that we can remember, value and honor our diverse community this month. Before doing so, I would like to thank AULA, Adelante and Makarios for their leadership in putting together a wonderful month of activities, events and experiences for our community. I also hope that you will continue to engage with the rest of this month’s Filipino American History Month events that have been planned by AFIA.
In addition to these two important celebrations, October has some other important reminders to value and see others in our community as we learn more about their journey both in life and on our campus. Those vital opportunities include (but are not limited to):
It is our hope that this invitation to recognize and honor the various members of our campus community in these specific ways gives all of you the opportunity to deepen your connection with and commitment to one another. While it is true that we are all on this journey together, we are all carrying different experiences with us along the way. Being seen and affirmed by our fellow community members goes a long way in helping us all to remember that we are not alone. It is our prayer that those who connect to any one of these observances on a personal level feel that Andrews is a place where their particular life experiences are seen, valued and respected by those around them.
We thank you in advance for taking the opportunity to engage with each other respectfully in each of these areas.
It is certainly hardly ever encouraging these days to go online or turn on our televisions to watch the news.
Much of what we encounter in this news is a raw, awful evidence that this world is far too often affected by the pervasive force of evil in our society and our lives.
Of course, that’s hardly a new reality.
The dark force of evil is a specific story that weaves through every book of the Bible, just as it seems to now mark nearly every chapter of our contemporary lives.
And over the last week in particular, news stories that came from around the United States offered a relentless and particularly heartrending reminder of evil’s bleak impact.
The week began with the ongoing story of pipe bombs mailed to former presidents, politicians, media companies and businesspeople. When the person believed to be behind the construction and mailings of those bombs was arrested, he was driving a van that was festooned with a variety of stickers that proclaimed angry rhetoric against those with whom he disagreed. And when investigators and news organizations turned to this man’s social media posts, they discovered that he foreshadowed his evil deeds, referring to some of his targets as “piece slime trash” (sic) and threatening them with death.
Later in the week, in Kentucky, a man tried to break into the First Baptist Church of Jeffersontown, a predominantly black church, and after finding it locked (there was a prayer meeting going on at the time), he turned to the Kroger grocery store next door and shot and killed two black shoppers. He allegedly told a bystander that “whites don’t shoot whites” before he was captured by police.
And last Sabbath (and I use that phrase intentionally), a man stormed the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. By the time he was done shooting, 11 worshippers were dead and six policemen and worshippers injured.
It was the worst single day of violence against Jewish believers in U.S. history. When investigators and the media turned to the suspect’s social media account, once again they found speech filled with hatred and threats, including conspiracy theories that argued that Jewish people were the enemy. Minutes before he went to the synagogue, the shooter posted a message on a social media channel called Gab (an alternative Twitter-like social media channel since shut down), where he wrote that “HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered…I’m going in.”
For those who seek to live in a world marked by hope, each of these criminal and terrorist acts, these hate crimes, had their own unique and awful form of evil specifics.
However, at the same time, it seemed that each of these acts also reflected on the tragic reality of our times. Hate itself has become part of conversations that are no longer analog—person-to-person and out loud—but spread globally throughout the internet and social media channels. The term increasingly used for this sort of social media anger and hatred is the phrase “weaponized.”
“Weaponize” is an old word. Traditionally, it simply means “to adapt for use as a weapon of war,” with the idea that physical weapons were used. Most people believe it was a phrase first used in a book about conflict in India and first published in 1938. In the 1950s, the term meant “to provide (a nuclear or other explosive device) with a mechanism for being launched and propelled toward a target.”
Now, increasingly, weaponize often has little do with bombs. The current definition—as set out in the Guardian newspaper last year—is that “weaponized narrative seeks to undermine an opponent’s civilisation, identity and will by generating complexity, confusion and political and social schisms.”
As the three criminal, and even terrorist, acts of the last week unfolded, there was an unsurprising array not only of social media comments by these individuals, but also a trail of truly fake news and demonstrably untrue conspiracy theories that inspired the thoughts and actions of these individuals. Another phrase that’s sometimes used as these acts become a part of our lives is that these individuals become “radicalized” through their online media habits—a term that in the past we would use for terrorists that lived somewhere else.
As we face a world that listens to, and then amplifies, this kind of hate, what might or should we do as a community of God’s children who are committed to inspiring and caring for our world?
As Christians, believers in Jesus Christ, individuals who seek to live by His teachings, to be inspired by His life, what do we do in a world of weaponized hate?
The answer is a small but powerful word—love—and it’s a small but powerful, and truly central commitment, to Christ’s radical and transforming mission and mercy.
So, then, to try to recapture this military term—weaponize—is there a way that we can “weaponize love?”
Christ’s life consistently suggested and demonstrated that love was indeed not simply an attitude of stubborn response to the evil in the world, love was also an active and proactive force to confront and bring about real change in response to evil.
In turn, that kind of world-shaking, transforming love must inspire our response as a community filled with heartache and horror, as we speak out against and strongly condemn these awful attitudes and acts. The real question for us, as followers of Christ, is how might we meaningfully/powerfully/unabashedly call out those things and stand for truth—how do our lives and voices become a tool to simply and powerfully weaponize love?
I believe that’s one of the core elements of Christ’s example and life, as he daily sought to counter and meaningfully transform a society so often aligned against those who are lesser than.
1 John 4:15–21 (NLT, emphasis mine) gives us this poignant reminder:
"All who declare that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in His love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face Him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced His perfect love. We love each other because He loved us first. If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? And He has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers."
In these dark and trying times with seemingly few answers or effective responses to this evil world, I’m convinced that we can be confident in the fact that if we decide to live out God’s perfect love, and use that as our weapon of choice to combat the manifestations of evil that we see in the world, God will drive out all fear—not only for our own lives but for the lives of our brothers and sisters, our neighbors.
So, while it will never be easy or as immediate as we might sometimes wish, the story of our lives and this world itself is that God’s perfect love will expel the hatred from the hearts of those who are truly willing to experience it. And for each one of us, it’s important to remember that we cannot declare that we love God while harboring hatred for those around us.
I don’t mean to be casual or glib when I say we must weaponize love—God’s love. I say it because I believe that God-fueled love will move us beyond just our mere thoughts and prayers and into tangible action. It’s the sort of action that seeks to stand alongside the oppressed in our communities and our world as we strive to meet our neighbors’ immediate needs, while also committing to the long-term effort of seeking restorative justice on their behalf.
Further, we talk a lot about World Changers here at Andrews. I believe that the first step to becoming a world changer is to allow the perfect love of God to transform us—to renew our minds, to purify our thoughts and to break our hearts for what breaks His.
That perfect love, inspired and energized by God’s Spirit in our lives, will allow us to see those around us the way that God sees them, and it’s a simple perspective: A son or daughter who has been created in God’s image.
Once we have been transformed by that love, we can then use it as a weapon that’s not a weapon at all but a Holy Force, an Ultimate Love, that seeks to truly change the world.
These heartbreaking days remind us that yes, world changers can be made here at Andrews University and wherever God’s children are found...and we can and will change the world only and ultimately through the power of God’s perfect love.
One of the ways we can seek to live out the Love we talk about here is reflected in a local Interfaith Prayer Vigil when we will gather with our neighbors to honor and pray for the victims of the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue shooting—as well as other victims of hate crimes. This prayer vigil will be held on Monday, Nov. 5, at 7 p.m. in the Oak Room at The Citadel, 91 Hinkley Street in Benton Harbor, Michigan. I invite you to attend as part of being a force for transforming love in a world so often marked by evil.
“For the Lord your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords. He is the great God, the mighty and awesome God, who shows no partiality and cannot be bribed. He ensures that orphans and widows receive justice. He shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing. So you, too, must show love to foreigners, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.” Deuteronomy 10:17–19
We join the chorus of voices including the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists (NAD) and the Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (PUC) who have spoken out against the inhumane cruelty being inflicted upon immigrants and refugees— including their children—due to the new “zero tolerance” policy that has was approved by the Executive Branch of the United States and implemented by the Department of Justice.
The implementation of this policy has led to young children being separated from their parents who, in the majority of cases, are political asylum-seekers from countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras among others. Rather than processing those claims, it has been reported that they have been taken into custody immediately while having their children taken away from them and detained in chain link enclosures in the McAllen Central Processing Station in Texas.
We have also been deeply troubled by the practice of using Scripture to justify this policy that many have engaged in. There are several examples in Scripture of God commanding us to treat those who are not native to our land in the exact same manner that we would treat a family member.
The book of Ezekiel puts it this way:
“Divide the land within these boundaries among the tribes of Israel. Distribute the land as an allotment for yourselves and for the foreigners who have joined you and are raising their families among you. They will be like native-born Israelites to you and will receive an allotment among the tribes. These foreigners are to be given land within the territory of the tribe with whom they now live. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!” Ezekiel 47:21–23
God calls His people to take an active part in not only welcoming in the foreigner or stranger that is within our gates, but also to make provision for them—treating them as if they are members of our own families.
Our ancestors were brought to this country by way of divergent and varying paths. Some migrated to America and forcibly claimed these lands, which were not native to them, as their own. Others were brought to these shores by force and the foundations of this country were built on the backs of their free labor. Still others sought the dream of a better life in this country fleeing war-torn and impoverished communities in their countries of origin.
Throughout America’s history, it has indeed been the contributions of our global community that has given it the potential to be a great country. If we ignore and invalidate those contributions and allow close-mindedness to close ourselves off from the rest of the world, America as we know it will cease to exist. We cannot and must not turn a blind eye to the needs of those seeking refuge in our country. As their applications for entry are considered, the very least we can do is treat them humanely.
America has always prided itself on being the land of the free and the home of the brave. This is a country where people from all different walks of life are endowed with certain inalienable rights—life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. While this ideal has only been true for some, we believe that as people of faith we are called to stand in the prophetic tradition of Martin Luther King Jr. by speaking truth to power and demanding that this country truly live up to the meaning of its creed for all of its inhabitants, as well as for those seeking refuge here.
Ultimately, we are called to treat everyone around us with the love of Christ. That love should motivate us to tangible action. Hebrews implores us to:
“Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.” Hebrews 13:1–3.
I am reminded of a monumental event that occurred on this date—June 19—in 1865. More than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, Union General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas and announced that the 250,000 remaining enslaved people in the state of Texas were free. Since then, June 19 has been celebrated as “Juneteenth” around the country as a symbol of true emancipation and freedom.
I am also reminded of a boldly prophetic passage that Ellen G. White released around 1855 in “Testimonies for the Church,” Volume One. At the time, slavery was still alive and well in this country and many had questions about how we as Christians should respond in the face of immoral laws and policies. In the face of such questions, particularly as it pertained to the “Fugitive Slave Act of 1850,” Sister White penned the following passage:
“We have men placed over us for rulers, and laws to govern the people. Were it not for these laws, the condition of the world would be worse than it is now. Some of these laws are good, others are bad. The bad have been increasing, and we are yet to be brought into strait places. But God will sustain His people in being firm and living up to the principles of His word. When the laws of men conflict with the word and law of God, we are to obey the latter, whatever the consequences may be. The law of our land requiring us to deliver a slave to his master, we are not to obey; and we must abide the consequences of violating this law. The slave is not the property of any man. God is his rightful master, and man has no right to take God's workmanship into his hands, and claim him as his own.” Testimonies for the Church, Chapter 37 (201.2).
Andrews University fully denounces the practice of separating families and detaining immigrants and their children in chain-link enclosures. This practice goes against everything that we stand for as a diverse and welcoming community that seeks to help every member of our institution find their voice and value.
As Pacific Union Conference President Ricardo Graham said in their statement “our thoughts and prayers must turn into actions and deeds.” If you’d like to read more about those who are working to support and aid these immigrant families, you can find out more here.
As we finished our Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations in Newbold Auditorium, I was reminded of one of Dr. King’s powerful statements about his dream for a more just society: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Those words, more than five decades old, are urgently and painfully relevant to the society we now live in. As recently as last week, an immediate national and international uproar unfolded after news reports indicated that our nation's president, Donald Trump, had disparaged the quality, character and potential of immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti and Africa.
Those reported remarks are racist, painful and destructive. More importantly, those crude sentiments and perspectives do not reflect the values of our Andrews University community. We would like to make it clear that racist remarks of any kind, from our students, staff, faculty or administration, will not be tolerated, encouraged, accepted or overlooked.
I and we believe that Andrews University is consistently enriched and improved by our students who come from literally everywhere in the world—an international family of students, faculty, staff and administration that helps us daily understand the pain, reality and potential of God’s kingdom.
As a result, we deplore any beliefs and attitudes that run counter to our God-centered call to create and nurture a beloved community whose neighbors are not defined by geography. These neighbors of ours are instead defined simply by their status as children of God—children who make their home everywhere in the world, including here in Berrien Springs and in all the other institutions and homes around the world where our students study.
For those who can attend Andrews on our Berrien Springs campus, we are humbled and honored to welcome every student, including those from Haiti, El Salvador or the countries of Africa which were the targets of last week’s racist remarks. In fact, we seek to welcome students from every corner of this earth to be educated and inspired to help ultimately Change the World for God.
To do anything less at Andrews University would be to deny the call and purpose God has given our beloved community.
I welcome your reflection, prayer and productive action in helping to assure that this Kingdom Value—a God-centered and unwavering commitment to the equity and strength of each human—ultimately infuses and transforms our world, our societies and those who are leaders, both political and spiritual.
At this time of the year, we are reminded of the Bible stories of families, even entire people groups, who were forced from their homes and pursued new lives for God’s promise and promised lands. Current news echoes the Biblical stories, as hundreds of thousands are forced to leave their homes because of race, ethnicity or religion.
CNN reports on Ethiopian refugees being sold into slavery in Libya, tens of thousands of Haitians displaced by the 2010 earthquake returning to an uncertain home 18 months from now, hundreds of thousands of Rohingyans driven from their home country because of their beliefs, and years of ongoing challenges experienced by Syrian refugees.
As a global university committed to viewing the world through God’s eyes, we are heartbroken by these realities. We call on the countries of the world, as well as the members of our campus community, to fulfill our essential responsibilities as God’s children, to meaningfully respond to our neighbors, wherever they live, and to continue to condemn the actions of those who restrict the freedoms and destroy the homes and lives of our neighbors.
The issue of slavery and human trafficking continues to be a staggering injustice. A conservative estimate from recent studies, as reported by the International Labour Organization, shows that 40 million people are currently enslaved worldwide through either forced labor or forced marriages. Additionally, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports that more than 65 million are currently considered refugees worldwide.
As we finish the semester and look forward to our celebrations with family and friends this holiday season, let’s remember those who will not be afforded the same opportunity. May we work and pray together as we strive to help the displaced and marginalized find a home—with us. Let those prayers be geared towards asking God to lead us as we consider how we can lift our voices as well as commit our efforts to finding tangible solutions to these sobering and difficult injustices.
“Do not take advantage of foreigners who live among you in your land. Treat them like native-born Israelites, and love them as you love yourself. Remember that you were once foreigners living in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:33–34
(image source: https://www.diyatvusa.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/human-trafficking-fact.jpg)
We are profoundly saddened by the Trump Administration’s decision to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Our institution remains committed to providing a safe and inclusive learning environment for every student who is enrolled at Andrews. Andrews University does not discriminate against our enrolled students on the basis of national origin or citizenship status.
The Association of Governing Boards (AGB) of Universities & Colleges (of which we are a member) released a poignant statement which said in part, “the roughly 800,000 individuals who have registered under [DACA] have passed rigorous tests and are already working and serving the communities in which they live...these are hard working, bright, young people—embodying traditional American values.”
The Association of American Colleges & Universities (“AAC&U”) reaffirmed the “deep and abiding commitment” of its 1,400 members (of which we are one), “to the values of diversity, inclusion and equity as critical to the wellbeing of our democratic society and as the cornerstones of excellence in liberal education.”
If you or someone you know would like to discuss the implications of this decision, please feel free to reach out to me via email: email@example.com. The days ahead for the DACA program and the students who have studied within the guidelines of this program are uncertain, but at Andrews University we will face them together as a unified community of people that are committed to treating one another with respect, dignity and honor.
(You can read the full AGB statement here).
(You can read the full AAC&U statement, which includes more links and resources, here).
I am deeply saddened and outraged by the events that transpired over this past weekend in Virginia where demonstrators at a white nationalist rally descended upon Charlottesville with the express intent to spread hate, bigotry, and violence. These senseless acts were inspired and informed by the hateful messages of the white supremacy movement and its roots in the KKK, neo-nazism, the alt-right, and other like-minded domestic terrorist groups.
As you’ve doubtless heard or read, demonstrations by those groups this last weekend, sadly culminated in the death of Heather Heyer, and injuries for nearly 20 others when a car was intentionally driven into a crowd of counter protesters.
A thirty-two-year-old life has been snuffed out by intentional, hate-infused violence by a domestic terrorist who believes that his life is more valuable than others due to the color of his skin. Two others died in the line of duty protecting those in attendance at the event. Our country has been forced, once again, to face the fact that this kind of bigotry, hatred and violence has been, and continues to be, a part of who we are as a country. The question we must now ask ourselves as a community is are we willing to face and confront that reality? What steps are we willing to take to change our collective trajectory going forward?
Though it is comforting that so many have denounced the senseless acts of violence promulgated by the alt-right, KKK, neo-Nazis, and other like-minded domestic terrorist groups, we should be careful not to simply reject and discount these acts as from a few people on the fringe.
And, for Andrews University, as a Seventh-day Adventist Christian institution, we cannot be silent in the wake of these events. I would like to speak in a clear and direct way about where we stand on these issues and what we intend to do moving forward.
In particular, as we prepare to welcome students from all around our country and the world to our campus for this new school year, I want to make it clear that Andrews denounces hate, bigotry, and racism in all of its forms and reject the false ideas of white supremacy & white nationalism. Discriminatory hate speech on the basis of race, national origin, religion, gender (identity or expression) or sexual orientation will not be tolerated on our campus.
We reject hateful groups such as the KKK, the alt-right, neo-Nazis, and other domestic terrorist groups as well as the beliefs they subscribe to. We also reject the notion that one can subscribe to the belief that their race alone should be allowed to have life, liberty, and the right to pursue happiness in this country while also claiming to be a Christian.
The book of First John makes this clear, “If anyone says ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen" (1 John 4:20).
Here at Andrews, we are committed to modeling the commandment that finishes up the book of First John:
“And this commandment we have from Him, that one who loves God should also unselfishly love his brother and seek the best for him" (1 John 4:21).
Ultimately, the true value of our response will be found in our actions as we go forward as a campus community.
We will double down on our commitment to create a more equitable and inclusive environment for the faculty, staff, students and administrators on our globally and ethnically diverse campus. We are encouraged by the public statements made by the leadership of the North American Division of Seventh-Day Adventists, Oakwood University, as well local church leaders in our denomination who have come together to speak directly and firmly against the hate and bigotry they have witnessed and experienced in their own lives.
I call on all of those in leadership in our church: Pastors, Local Conferences, Unions, Divisions, the General Conference, our sister higher education institutions, and medical facilities, to take—and continue to take—affirmative steps to denounce the violent hatred and bigotry that was embodied over the weekend in Charlottesville by the alt-right, KKK, neo-Nazis, and other like-minded domestic terrorist groups.
These views are a danger to the future not just of our country, but also for our Church. We must proactively address any ways that these racist and bigoted views may have influenced or even infected the way that we operate here in our own Andrews community. If found, we must root those views out immediately.
“God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them" (Genesis 1:27).
At Andrews University, we fully believe that we have all been created in the image of God, equally. We are against any notion of racial, cultural, religious, or national superiority.
We all have eternal value and should keep in mind that when we interact with one another, we are interacting with the image of God that can be discovered and seen in one another.
As a Seventh-day Adventist Christian institution, we are committed to modeling the life and teachings of Christ in every aspect of what we say and do. We invite you to join us on this crucial and world changing journey.