Racial Reconciliation panel to start conversation about race and religion

Annie Deitz, Campus Carrier Deputy News Editor

The Men’s Ministry will be hosting the Christianity and Racial Reconciliation panel today at 7:00 p.m. in the Spruill Ballroom.With panelists Charles Love, Adam Hubert, Jordan Rowan Fannin, Diamond Newsome and Chon’tel Washington, the event aims to discuss the necessity of Christianity in overcoming inherent racial issues within the country and the community.

Junior Antonio Brown, ministry leader for the Chaplain’s Office, will be moderating tonight’s panel. Brown has been a key organizer for this event, influential in the planning of speakers, questions, and topics for discussion. Brown says he has been passionate about this issue for a long time, and is glad that he finally has the opportunity to demonstrate that passion.

“Growing up where I grew up, I never had the opportunities to talk about race, or it would be a very uncomfortable topic,” Brown said. “Coming to Berry and Berry allowing me to express myself, I learned more about how this topic, the idea of race and Christianity, actually go hand in hand. It’s been a really cool experience and the job that I have allows for me to chase those passions.”

The panel will be a discussion on race and Christianity, prompted from questions both pre-written by Brown and taken from the audience. Brown said that the goal is to start a conversation, and to give insight to people who may have never thought about this topic before. He hopes it will get the community excited, and give way to future discussions.

“Part of that reconciling is not just reconciling between us and Christ, but with each other,” Brown said. “The body of Christ should just be a big family of different ethnicities, and that’s the whole ordeal.”

Junior Diamond Newsome is one of the five panelists speaking tonight. As an active Christian and a founder of Berry’s Solidarity Week, Newsome shares Brown’s hopes for the communal power of the panel. She believes the idea of racial reconciliation through religion is pivotal for pulling together the broken pieces of discriminatory history faced by minorities in America, and putting people together as a more accepting, open society.

“In this country there has been so much racial brokenness, and it is often overlooked,” Newsome said. “As a Christian it’s my job to reach out and to love. Because regardless of whether or not people’s problems fall within my category, as a Christian it’s my job to make sure that all people are loved, welcomed and accepted.”

Jordan Rowan Fannin, associate professor of religion, is another invited panelist that will be joining tonight’s conversation. Rowan-Fannin will bring a theological background to the discussion, emphasizing the deep implication of reconciliation in theology. Like Brown, she hopes to help welcome people into a long natured discussion that will continue beyond the night.

“I hope it welcomes all of us into a conversation that we didn’t start,” Rowan-Fannin said. “The question of right relationships for all people is a conversation that has been going on since long before we got here. We’re coming to join something that has been going on long before us.”

Another of tonight’s panelists is Chon’tel Washington, the director of Student Diversity Initiative. On the discussion of racial and religious reconciliation, Washington highlights how interconnected the idea of social justice is with Christianity.

“We need to reconcile the way that we view race,” Washington said. “Social justice is very closely woven into the principles of Christianity. If folks who call themselves religious people are not giving the same view of morality to all people, it causes problems.”

The overall mission of the program is to start a conversation. The organizers and participants of the panel share a common wish, that students will continue discussing the matters presented tonight even after they leave the Krannert Ballroom. As Brown understands, the panel is a starting place for many people unfamiliar with this issue, and understanding is the key to changing that.

“Being able to hear and listen, that’s the first step to reconciling,” Brown explained. “People are going to have preconceived notions about this stuff but once you’re willing to listen and make it understandable, conversations can happen. Change can happen.”

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