More than a dozen student leaders came together earlier this week to discuss what support within the St. Thomas community looks like in the face of religious intolerance, and to articulate a statement of solidarity with anyone affected by religious intolerance and bigotry.
The statement – shared widely across social media on Thursday and signed independently by St. Thomas clubs and organizations – comes after an act of vandalism on campus against a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which also prompted a gathering of prayer for more than 100 community members on Thursday. The statement also calls for solidarity with communities affected by the violence in New Zealand on March 15 and in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27, 2018, respectively.
“We felt that, as a community, people weren’t coming together to support each other on all fronts,” junior Hunter Santos said. “We really wanted to address that in a strategic way that didn’t seem like we were trying to divide anyone, say one event was more important, but to give groups the love and support needed coming out of different events.”
With conscious conversation and care, Santos and other student leaders hoped to “find a solution moving forward to better support one another.”
“Religious intolerance, regardless of what faith it is, impacts all of us, but especially members of that community (acts of intolerance are aimed at),” Santos added. “It’s another reason we need to come together as a community.”
Finding the best way to voice that desire meant crafting a message that any individual or group could see and share a desire for unity in the face of religious intolerance and bigotry, Santos said. Student leaders looked to St. Thomas’ values and convictions as universally shared beliefs, Santos said, to ground the statement, which reads, in part:
“When acts of ignorance, hate, xenophobia and white supremacy occur on our campus, in this country, or globally, it impacts us all. Hurt has no boundaries, and neither does hatred. In this time we are called to evaluate ourselves and determine how we can make personal steps to stopping the bigotry and the hateful actions it breeds.
We stand in solidarity with those affected by religious intolerance and bigotry. The lack of campus-wide support ends here. As members of (each club or organization that shared the message), we stand against all acts of religious intolerance and condemn those whose acts breed hatred and pain, on our campus, and worldwide.”
As the message spread across social media and campus on Thursday, the care and dialogue that went into crafting it were noted, too.
“I congratulate the student leaders who came together and crafted the statement of solidarity,” Vice President for Mission Father Larry Snyder said. “This reflects the St. Thomas that I know and am very proud of. Building a community of trust and respect takes hard work and commitment. These students are helping to lead the way.”