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Photo of Reverend Paul Robinson featured as a speaker at the “Becoming the Beloved Community” event hosted by social justice group Zion Covenant, Love Mercy, Do Justice. Submitted photo

Social justice and cultural awareness are brought to the fore at an upcoming event hosted by a local social justice group on October 2. Love Mercy, Do Justice, an initiative organized by Zion Covenant Church, will host a cultural awareness workshop titled “Become the beloved community. “

The event, which consists of two sessions and a lunch, will feature Reverend Paul Robinson, Executive Minister of Love Mercy, Do Justice Mission Priority of the Evangelical Alliance Church. Robinson was previously a church planter and a senior community leadership consultant. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Finance from Eastern Illinois University and a Master of Divinity from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago.

Reverend Rick Miller of Zion Covenant Church said the Love Mercy, Do Justice group has been meeting for about four years, but this was the first major public event they were hosting. True to its values ​​of diversity, equity and inclusion, the group is made up of diverse members of the community, including people of different faiths and backgrounds. He said the idea behind the event is to educate people, both in the congregation and outside. Miller said the Evangelical Covenant Church has been involved in efforts like these for some time.

“Our denomination, which is the Evangelical Covenant Church, has been very active in racial reconciliation over the past 25 years, I believe, and has completely reshaped the denomination,” he said. “So they have been paying attention to justice issues for a long time. What happens at the denominational level is now happening locally for us. A lot of people think… that we sometimes skip over these issues just because they’re important in the news right now or important in our culture right now, race issues or racial tensions. Again, this is something that our church, the denomination, has been dealing with for 25 or 30 years. “

Miller said the event is open to the public. He said the first session will focus on cultural competence, which will focus on understanding one’s own culture as well as other cultures. He said the first session may be more applicable to the general public, while the second session will tie racial reconciliation to faith and what it means for the religious community.

“Organizations and structures are healthier when they are diverse and inclusive, and it is important to have a conversation about it” Miller said. “It’s applicable at all levels – health care, education, church, community, whatever. The afternoon session focuses more on the faith component and how our faith, indeed the gospel, addresses issues of justice and equality, and racial reconciliation. It’s part of the conversation around the gospel – it’s not separate from it, it’s not a distraction from it – it’s part of the good news of the gospel.

He said he believed the event and the conversation were important in the community as racism still exists in Jamestown and the country as a whole. He said he was brought up to bring up the topics after various visits to poignant areas as well as documents he had read, including those of Martin Luther King.

“Things have changed, but not enough has changed” Miller said.

Miller said the idea for the title came from Dr. Martin Luther King’s concept of a “beloved community”, free from discrimination, bigotry and prejudice, and focused on tolerance and inclusion.

Marie Vos, a leader of Love Mercy, Do Justice, said the group is a ministry team across the church.

“Not all of our team members are Zion members, and that’s intentional,” Vos said. “In fact, an active member and an inactive member of our team is not a Christian, and that is intentional. We wanted it to be a diverse group. This group has offered events in Sion in particular, but to the community in general, in an attempt to raise awareness of different justice issues. We mainly focused on a lot of racing issues, but that is not our long term intention. “

Vos said the group held film screenings at the church, but the events are not exclusively for the church. Due to the denomination having a larger version of Love Mercy Do Justice, the group was able to bring in Reverend Robinson to hold the workshop. Vos said the group has been preparing for the event since March.

“There are racial problems in the community – there are racial problems all over the country”, she said. “Fortunately, we haven’t been to Minneapolis with a high-profile case of tension, or Ferguson or Kenosha – but there’s no reason to think Jamestown is exempt. It may be a preventive measure. This is one more opportunity to speak up and realize that we are all human and that we have more in common than we have differences.

Sam Qadri, Community Outreach Coordinator for the Jamestown Islamic Society, is also a member of the Love Mercy, Do Justice team. Qadri said he feels like Zion Covenant “adopted” him. He said he was happy to see that the church officially made the group a church committee. He said that said a lot about the intention behind the group and the church.

Being included as one of the non-Christian members was meaningful to him, Qadri said.

“I think the inclusive part of this is very important to me and having the different denominations of the different religious groups within Jamestown and Chautauqua County – being able to do it freely and voluntarily is important,” he said. “I think this is a really big step.”

Qadri said that the event that is being held at the moment is lucky because there could be “no more perfect of a time.” He said conversations are currently taking place in the region and across the country regarding racial justice and other social justice issues, which makes the topic of the workshop even more important.

“When I see other people speaking out against Black Lives Matters groups or when they try to undermine their intentions or their activities, then you get the feeling that we still have racists in our community. “ he said. “I don’t know if we can change someone’s mind for being a prejudice fanatic, but we can definitely educate children. Hopefully the next generation grows up in an environment that fosters acceptance, fosters tolerance, and fosters collaboration even with someone you might disagree with on the principles of faith and what faith does. teaches. At least we should be able to work together on a common goal for the sake of our next generation. We are responsible for what I believe in the eyes of God the Creator.

Qadri said his involvement is “intentional” because he is always interested in learning more about cultures and other aspects of the workshops.

The event will be held free of charge on October 2 at Zion Covenant Church from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. A lunch will be held at noon with a suggested donation of $ 10. The first session will take place from 9 a.m. to noon and is entitled Cultural Competence. The second session will be held from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and is entitled Racial Reconciliation. Participants can attend one or both sessions. For more information and to register for the event, visit www.ZionCov.org. Registration closes on Monday, September 27.

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