Tag Archives: social justice

Discomfort with the Truth

As I wrote in my previous post, I have been reading the news a lot more lately. I am starting to learn more about the Middle East, ISIS, Gaza, Israel, the Ebola virus, the Yazidis people, the Ukraine, etc. It is not that I knew nothing beforehand about some of these topics or other worldly events, but I purposefully avoided reading too much. I’m realizing that it’s a selfish decision to do that. I avoid it because it is hard to sit with. It’s unsettling. It’s unbelievable and I don’t know how to understand what these people, real people, are going through. It makes me feel small and makes everything in my life seem pointless when children in other countries are being killed and going hungry. But even this perspective is selfish, putting emphasis on my own life and how it makes me feel.

I was relieved to find that Sarah Bessey, a popular Christian blogger and author of Jesus Feminist put into words exactly what I was feeling at the exact moment I needed it. I’m appreciative of the perspective she gives and the posture she suggests to take as a Christian in the U.S.

Here is an excerpt from the post,

“We can’t willfully push away the suffering of humanity and the terribleness of the world out of selfishness and discomfort with the truth.

We can listen – truly listen – to the stories that people need to tell. Maya Angelou wrote that there is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you.

We can kick against the injustices and amplify the voices of those who are suffering. We can read the prophets like Isaiah and Amos and Jeremiah. We can educate ourselves and seek to understand complexity outside of our pet sources. We can light candles and, oh, we can pray.

We can write letters and advocate. We can be teachable. We can hold space for the suffering. We can both prayerfully and practically support people and organizations who are working towards peace and shalom in the front lines. We can do that work ourselves, daily small and unsexy as it is.

We can let our children lead us back to the right response – compassion and tenderness of heart again.

In the words of Isaiah, we can sweep our lives clean of evildoings, say no to wrong, learn to do good, work for justice, help the down-and-out, stand up for the homeless, go to bat for the defenseless. (Isaiah 1:12-17)”

Read the full post here.

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Incoroprating Faith into City Planning and Academia

I recently came upon a podcast posted by Urbanophile entitled “Faith and City Planning.” I am a Christian and aspiring Urban Planner, so I was immediately intrigued. The podcast is a discussion between two MIT urban planning professors, Annette Kim and Phil Thompson. The full podcast can be found here.

While the podcast does address this topic in regards to city planning, it highly focuses on the role of faith in academia in general. The professors discuss how faith ceases being talked about once a student enters the classroom. Kim says that although you’re still catholic, once you are in class, you don’t talk about it.

Thompson tries to tie in the Civil Rights Movement as an example of major social movements being faith centered. He states that it was the essence of the Civil Rights Movement, and that if we don’t talk about that, then we’re not telling the whole story.

Martin-Luther-King-Jr

He also gives an example of Native American spirituality, and the idea of seeing everything as having a spirit, and that if you don’t see that, you won’t survive. He continues on as to how this idea is also central for environmentalism.

Kim discusses how this type of discussion does not fit into the academic realm and that their is a climate of silence and fear. She says that it feels like something we are not allowed to talk about because it is not “intellectual” or “valid.” However, she believes that students should be encouraged to explore their moral development and wisdom, along with their intellect and critical thinking.

Kim discusses that a major reason that the idea of faith should be talked about in planning is because most students go into planning for moral reasons. Students are seeking to learn what is better, what is right, and the ways to make things better.

What I found interesting as well in the discussion is their emphasis of understanding how faith has motivated people throughout history (such as the Civil Rights Movement). What stood out to me as well, is when Kim states that we have to understand how oppressed people survived so long, and where their hope came from.

They continue to discuss the fact that faith is rich and complicated, and that adding this to academic discussions will only make us more intelligent.

Overall, the podcast tied in faith, social justice, diversity, and academics in a really interesting and thought-provoking way. I was really intrigued by the discussion of how faith has played a huge role in several social justice movements and how it has been key to several oppressed peoples survival. I also thought it was interesting to encourage academia to help develop students morals and ethics, which will only help increase their intellect.

I also do believe their are several educators out there who do a great job already of some of these suggestions, and that these statements do not apply to everyone. However, I believe there are benefits to minimizing discussion of one’s personal faith in the classroom. I know in a lot of situations, people are not always as understanding of each others beliefs, and it could make some students feel uncomfortable and interfere with the learning process. Also, if educators too strongly push their own beliefs, it can make students uncomfortable to share their own viewpoints. The goal would be to create the safest space possible, where educators can facilitate discussion of religion, morals, and ethics with students able to freely share without judgement or ridicule from others. This is an ideal situation though, and I understand it is not always easy to achieve.

Also, I don’t believe you need to follow set religious parameters in order to be a moral person or believe strongly in social activism. The podcast discussed that the social movements of today may not be as effective as they were in the past due to a lack of faith as a motivator. While I certainly believe faith can be a huge and prominent motivator in social action, I do not believe people cannot bring social change if they do not identify with a religion.

I wish they discussed a bit more on incorporating faith and ethics into city planning, but I do believe this is worth a listen. Definitely check it out and let me know what you think! 🙂

Or rather, what role do you think faith, religion, ethics, or morals should play in the classroom? How do you balance encouraging intellect with moral development? 

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How City Planning Creates Social Improvements

I came across this article recently from Architecture in Development regarding the significant social impacts quality city planning has had on the city of Medellin, Colombia.

Medellin was suffering from economic, social, and violence issue resulting from drug trafficking and conflicts between communist guerrillas and paramilitaries. It was even ranked  as one of the most dangerous cities in the world in 1992.

Mayors Luis Perez (2000, 2003), Sergio Fajardo (2003-2007) and Alonso Salazar sought to improve the safety and quality of life of Medellin through a comprehensive strategy that sought solutions to mobility, governance and education, along with the recovery of public space and green areas.

What stood out to me the most. and which I believe is key in this scenario, is that their strategy revolved around recovering the poorest sectors of the city (which were dominated by communist groups, paramilitaries or drug smugglers).

Several of the projects being implemented have had a strong focus on the most marginalized areas of the city. Mayor Fajardo’s goal was to improve these areas through “Social Urbanism” which helped improve the education system through new schools, libraries, and parks with high architectural value. He saw this as a “New Medellin” that illustrated how violence can be fought by means of cultural development and social inclusion.

Urban solutions in Medellin had to revolve around its topography. It is very limited by the space development and had to implement alternatives to solve problems of space and mobility. For example, the “Metro Cable” was created out of the need to connect informal settlements in the upper parts of the city with the metro system at the lower valley. This project decreased travel time from over an hour, to just ten minutes.

Metro Cable Medellin CC. J. Drissen

Metrocable of Medellin

Medellin still faces many issues, but it is impressive to see the amount of progress it has made with such a short history in urban planning. I think it sends a strong message to the world of how quality urban design can tremendously benefit the poorest cities in our world. The article writes, “The urban and social development of the city is remarkable, the number of violent incidents has decreased. The unemployment rate is low and the perception of safety on the people of Medellin is positive. This is made possible through integral collaborations between planners, designers and politicians to highlight areas of the city that have been ignored.”

I highly suggest reading the full article here.

It is stories like this that inspire me to continue the path of becoming an urban planner. The structure of cities can play a major role in the social welfare of those who inhabit them. It is amazing to me to see how, if done well, city planning can be a tool to prevent severe social inequalities and violence that many of the urban poor are faced with daily. It can be a strong tool of social justice.

Anyways, I was very inspired by this article, and hope you will be too! Feel free to comment, I would love to continue this discussion!

P.s. Yes, this is my first post on WordPress. If you would like to learn more, please visit my About Me page. 🙂

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