Tales From Abroad: JAM Summer 2015

16 jamS park 2 (2)JAM has provided me with the ability to speak about other worldviews in a more nuanced way. Before this trip, I had very little understanding of both Catholicismand Islam. I believed that this was a detriment to myself and to my understanding of other people groups and cultures. How is a person fully able to live an integrated life when he or she does not understand the religious beliefs of several billion of the world’s population? Through learning about Catholicism, and visiting a monastery, I was able to better appreciate the deep and rich history of Christianity. I learned that it is important to slow down, and to appreciate the world around us. Sometimes the best way to love others is to take care of ourselves. I also learned, through both humanism and Catholicism, the importance of role models. The Catholic Church looks at Saints, and holds them up as examples of how to live a good life. Likewise in humanism, much of how to live a good life is gleaned from people who have lived before us. It is easier to be a moral person if one studies history rather than just focusing on one’s own whimsical feelings. Community and knowledge are needed if one wants to seriously evaluate his or her life.

This trip had taught me that there is beauty in every place and in every person. Different religions and cultures, no matter how dissimilar to my own, have something to offer. Each group of people that we came into contact with had different ways to exemplify love and justice. In England and Spain, the environment, public health and green space were of particular importance. In Africa, the people that we met were so friendly. 30 jamG posed farmer (2)That culture promotes family unity, and loving your neighbor. It seemed to be a lot like the community as explained in the book of Acts. People give away their things to other people, and then are expected to receive things in return. Reciprocity is just a cultural norm. It’s not a negative thing, it is actually a positive custom that promotes social cohesion. In each place that we visited, we were able to see new ways to think about justice, and goodness.

While we were in England specifically, we met with many people who worked for non-profits, or just worked in general with issues of social justice. What we learned most from these groups is that justice must always be thought of through a holistic approach. It is never good enough to just think about one aspect of what a person needs. Any effort to help must be in collaboration with other individuals. Oxfam, an English NGO, focuses primarily on the water needs of people, but worked with other NGOs to make sure that all of the needs of a community were met. Likewise individuals in Accra were seeking to find innovative ways to address issues that could actually impact more than just one aspect of a bad situation.

Another thing I learned about social justice is that it can mean different things for different communities. The same strategy that worked well in the United States might not work well in Spain or in Ghana. Different cultures have different needs. While some issues of justice, such as women’s rights, the environment, ect., are issues in every community, the way to address these issues varies vastly.

29 jamE cs lewis  The way I saw justice expressed most prevalently was through love. Whether someone was Humanist, Catholic, or Islamic, all found that a more just society could be reached through taking care of ones neighbors, and loving people who are different. Community was also key. Whether it was the church at Barton or Heritage Christian College, true change started when people decided to work together.