The fight for social justice is challenging, as is the fight to articulate how and why we strive toward it. In theory, social justice is a common goal, but achieving it on the Hilltop can become contentious when different student organizations have different takes on what it entails.
Some find commitment to service in their faith; others maintain a secular reasoning. Differences in motivating reasons and even in semantics — with Catholic service groups adopting the term “charity” and many groups run through the CSJ steering clear of it — have inhibited partnership in the past. Going forward, all involved would benefit from greater cooperation.
To be able to work together in pursuit of social justice, student groups should first agree that a variety of perspectives can motivate a desire for a more just world. Religion has typically been central to this discussion, and it’s important to recognize that faith has historically served as a powerful initiative toward social good. But the Georgetown community includes many faith traditions — including secularism, agnosticism and atheism — and such diverging perspectives need not prevent collaboration.
On the other hand, in Georgetown settings that have traditionally been more secular, such as student groups run out of the Center for Social Justice, seeking out more religious perspectives would be worthwhile. It would be productive to engage in a series of informed, respectful discussions about these approaches, rather than for either religious or secular advocates to casually criticize or let their own approaches go unchallenged.
Differences in politics or ideologies are unavoidable, but student groups considered to be in contention can still take steps to collaborate in pursuit of social justice. A series of facilitated conversations co-sponsored by groups often labeled as progressive or conservative could lead to a constructive dialogue about their respective approaches. Participation across groups in service activities or events would also help to bridge the divide.
The struggle for social justice is easier fought together. Be it the Center for Social Justice, the Knights of Columbus or the Catholic Daughters, all student groups committed to improving our community would benefit from hearing what each other has to say.