December 15, 2015 | 8 p.m.
By Suzanne McInroy, Director of Communications
The Bethel Student Government (BSG) has released a statement in response to the recent injustices and tragedies that have been happening locally, nationally, and internationally. The statement was drafted by BSG Student Body President Zoe Vermeer and Vice President Taji Onesirosan. On December 7, the Student Senate unanimously passed a resolution to accept the statement.
Vermeer explains that conversations began in mid-November when a few students approached her and Onesirosan about injustices and tragedies happening around the world. “They petitioned that we, as representatives of the student body, write a statement to President Barnes and the Bethel University administration regarding the need for our community and other Christian communities to stand in prayer with all the hurt and suffering of this world.”
Vermeer said they focused the statement on tragedies that they have seen affect Bethel’s student community. The events mentioned specifically in the statement include: the deaths of Jamar Clark and Laquan McDonald, who died in Minneapolis and Chicago, respectively, after encounters with the police; the racial tensions occurring at the University of Missouri and Yale University; the marginalization of Christians around the globe; and acts of terrorism in Kenya, France, Lebanon, Nigeria, and elsewhere. “The reality is that this statement does not encompass every injustice and tragedy that has happened around our globe. No statement could ever accomplish that feat,” says Vermeer. “However, we did not want the fear of being overwhelmed to keep us from taking a stand.”
Bethel’s President Jay Barnes is supportive of the work done by Bethel’s student leadership and asked the statement to be read aloud during Chapel on December 7. In his introductory remarks, Barnes asked, “Does world, national or local news penetrate the ‘Bethel Bubble’?” He went on to say, “Today we stand together to say that it must. As leaders at Bethel, we are deeply concerned over the world's brokenness. Today, we are calling the Bethel community to pray, repent, and act. At Bethel, we're called to learn what it is like to be ‘the other.’ We're called to stand with oppressed people. And we're called to pray.” He thanked Vermeer, Onesirosan, and other students “for listening, engaging tough issues, and working for justice while acting with humility and kindness.”
Vermeer and Onesirosan hope the statement will raise Bethel students’ awareness about what is happening in the world and, as a result of that awareness, prompt a response. “We, as students of Bethel, are being raised up to be ‘world-changers,’” says Vermeer. “This statement serves as a practical tool to aid in such an endeavor. As we develop here at Bethel to eventually go out and literally change the world, let us still engage currently with the world by acknowledging the good and bad, and praying that the grace, joy, power, and peace of God would be in the midst of it all.”
The following is the statement released by BSG:
The Bethel Student Government in representation of the undergraduate Student Body of Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota, recognizes the tragedy and injustice that has been and continues to consume our world.
We stand against the racial injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people that is routinely occurring around our country. We acknowledge the deaths of Jamar Clark and Laquan McDonald that have devastated communities. We stand with the loved ones who mourn their losses. We stand beside those at the Universities of Missouri, Yale, and multiple others including Bethel who are confronting racial prejudices.
We mourn with those who suffer from pain, starvation, and displacement. We recognize the tragedy in Syria as millions of people have been displaced from their homes over the last few years.
We stand in unity with the Persecuted Church across the globe, Christians who are marginalized, abused, and killed because of their faith. We stand with them.
We grieve with the countries and individuals around the world who have been victims of terrorist attacks by Al-Shabaab, ISIS, and Boko Haram. We stand against the terrorists who have entered the nations of Kenya, France, Lebanon, Nigeria, and others and the death they have caused on innocent lives. We grieve with these countries and individuals.
We hold in high regard all levels of Law Enforcement who have dedicated their lives to the protection of our cities, states, and nation.
We, as a body of believers and ambassadors of Jesus Christ, are committed to standing with communities that have been affected by such violence, unrest, and injustice. We are eager to step out in love and engage with those who are disregarded, displaced, and discriminated against.
We are committed to upholding the dignity and significance of all peoples. Most practically we, as a community, are committed to standing in solidarity with those affected by these tragedies and injustices around the world, sitting with those who are suffering, and being the people of prayer God has called us to be.
Our call to action for the Bethel community and the surrounding communities is to pray; to pray more often and to pray with more intentionality, boldness, and faith. Let us engage in prayer with our brothers and sisters of the faith. Let us confront the realities of our world with one another. Let us not stand by in fear, nor passiveness, nor ignorance to the tragedies and injustices within the world around us. Rather, let us join together, hand in hand, to pursue peace and justice for all peoples near and far.
Romans 8:26 “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”
Luke 18:7-8 “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.”