The Summit brought together around 300 leaders of various faith groups who had displayed a commitment to social justice issues in the past, hoping to foster relationships and to spark ideas between people who might never have the chance to meet under normal circumstances.
I got the opportunity to attend the Summit through a nomination from Melody Fox Ahmend, my supervisor here at the Berkley Center. I was tasked with soaking up as much information as possible from the boundless mass of knowledge that surrounded me. A simple, yet daunting responsibility.
I’ll admit, I was nervous.
But as I went into the lectures, listened to speakers, and met and broke bread with the people around me, I found that I was accepted with open arms. No one spoke to me as if I was a mere undergraduate with head-in-the-clouds idealism with very little experience on actually guarding people’s lives, but rather brought me to the table to grapple with big issues like creation care, racial justice, and immigration. My voice was equal to everyone else’s.
As we grappled with these topics and challenged each other, my initial awareness of the inclusive nature of the dialogue I was engaged in melted away. The potential walls that could have existed between me and the other attendees had fallen, and real conversation flourished.
Upon leaving the conference on Thursday night, full of new ideas and armed with stories to tell, I realized something. Something incredibly basic, yet extremely important.
This type of inclusivity must be present in order to deal with any issue of social justice.
If we seek to understand and then to address a problem of any magnitude that has implications for others, we must promote an open and inclusive dialogue between all of humanity. By shutting out or discounting a voice we do ourselves a great disservice and lose a potential solution to our problem.
And the more that I reflected on this idea, as the days have passed and the hours ticked away, one particular phrase has kept recurring in my head that came off the lips of many of those who spoke during the Summit.
“Radical egalitarianism,” they said. “That’s what this society needs.”
The idea comes directly from Jesus, who held every person to the same moral standards regardless of religion, health, or gender and likewise gave each person the equal opportunity to be great. He heard the concerns of the needy. He soothed the cries of the sick. He came to the side of the dying. The Jesus we see in the Gospels embodies this principle of radical egalitarianism and beckons us to do the same.
We have to heed the call. We have to strive change things not through violence or uprising, but through peace and inclusive engagement of all perspectives. Only then can we truly affect the world we live in. Only then will we have change.