By Katherine Yeager | Contributor
Monday marks the start of the annual Social Justice Week sponsored by TWO's Global Outreach Cabinet. This year's theme is "In Their Shoes."
The theme is intentionally broad to encompass the refugee crisis, consumerism and ethics in food and clothing. Students will have the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of where products come from and how to take action without leaving campus. In addition, tangible responses to the refugee crisis will be presented through speakers and a simulation of refugee life.
"In Their Shoes promotes understanding through the experiential and tangible," senior Global Outreach co-director Gracie Fairfax said.
According to Fairfax, the goal is for students to see from another's perspective, "in their shoes." Students are challenged to have open minds, open hearts and a willingness to be uncomfortable.
"Social justice and social responsibility were a big part of Jesus' ministry on earth," sophomore Global Outreach co-director, Katherine Fritzeen said. "Besides loving him, caring for your neighbor was Jesus' greatest commandment."
On Monday, Sudanese refugee and Taylor alumnus Kenneth Elisapana will speak in chapel. A former Sudanese Lost Boy, Elisapana is the founder of South Sudan Voices of Hope, an organization promoting self-sufficiency and advocacy for Sudanese refugees. Michael Jessup, a sociology professor at Taylor, had Elisapana as a student.
"Kenneth could be bitter. He has lost so much-family members," Jessup said. "Yet he's always hopeful, he's always joyful and confident that God is in the midst of South Sudan. His positive faith has really been an inspiration."
Monday at 8 p.m., Global Outreach and Taylor Women's Programming will screen the "The Good Lie," a film about Sudanese refugees emigrating to America. This event is in the Great Room and open to all of campus.
Tuesday from 6:30-9 p.m., the refugee experience will come to Taylor through a simulation in Reade Center, led by Jessup and professor of Public Health Robert "Bob" Aronson.
"It is one thing to talk about an issue and another to experience it," Jessup said. "Students may get a little freaked out. So many times, especially in the U.S., we have such closed-minded ideas about refugees and immigration. We send missionaries out in the world, but now the world is coming to us."
During the simulation, students will be given a scenario, blindfolded and led through a series of events emulating the refugee experience. Students interact with border guards and receive "care" from aid workers.
"It's a conversation starter," Aronson said. "We're a bit afraid to talk about issues related to social justice because we don't want people to label us as 'social gospel-ers.' What I hear people say is that we need to talk about social justice and righteousness. And I get it, but there is no righteousness when there's oppression."
On Wednesday from 7:30-8 p.m. in Euler 109, New York Times bestselling author and speaker Kelsey Timmerman will speak on consumerism. Attendees can grab a free cup of Abbey coffee before the event begins.
On Thursday from 8-9:30 p.m., Global Outreach and Residence Life will host "Swap 'Til You Drop" in Alspaugh East and West. Students can bring clothing donations to the front desk of their residence hall by March 1, following guidelines in the Student Announcements.
For each item donated, students will receive a ticket to trade for one item of clothing at the event. Without a donation, items will each cost a dollar. Campus Pastor Jon Cavanagh and Director of Internships and Employee Relations Cathy Weatherspoon will serve as MCs.
"This is a very tangible way that students can make a difference by being more conscious of the things you are already buying," Fritzeen said.
As the week approaches, Fairfax and Fritzeen ask students and faculty to pray with open minds and hearts for social justice issues in Grant County and abroad.