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The arc of Notre Dame’s Catholic identity

| Wednesday, March 28, 2018

“Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

On April 4, we will mark the passage of 50 years since the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. On that day in history, our nation lost a visionary, a leader and someone who pursued justice and peace with a fiery passion.

As we reflect on the life and work of King, we must call to mind how the world today continues to face injustice and violence. It is imperative that we celebrate the progress made in the decades since, yet also note the steps backward we have taken.

Genocide remains a reality for populations around the world. Brown- and black-bodied men and boys in the United States continue to experience discrimination and lose their lives to excessive use of force and violence by police. Sexual harassment and abuse remain underreported and overlooked in our communities and justice systems. Migrants, refugees and their children face stress, uncertainty and discrimination from a nation comprised of former immigrants. Many other forms of cultural, structural and direct violence persist.

At the same time, others have followed in King’s footsteps and provided us with more models of what a life striving for justice and peace looks like. Dolores Huerta has dedicated her life to advocating for the rights of farmworkers and laborers. Nelson Mandela’s legacy of fighting apartheid in South Africa will remain with us for a long time to come. Malala Yousafzai continues to speak out about the importance of education for girls and women around the world.

As co-chairs of this year’s Student Peace Conference, which is sponsored by the Kroc Institute, we invite the members of the Notre Dame community to join us in considering how we can heal the harms of the past and address the violence of the present through mechanisms of justice and peace-building.

Our keynote speaker, Alexis Templeton, is an activist and gender-nonconforming scholar at Washington University in St. Louis. Alexis is a co-founder of Millennial Activists United, which was created on the ground of the Ferguson Uprising and aims to disrupt daily activities to confront the ways that state oppression disrupts black livelihood. Alexis centers black people in all her efforts and endeavors, and will speak about her experience with the intersections of justice and peace.

We encourage our students, staff and faculty to consider in a special way what it means for us to be having these conversations at Notre Dame. In recent discussions of our campus’s culture and identity as a Catholic university, we feel that our call to be peace builders and seekers of justice has been largely overlooked. We have spent a lot of time weighing the finer points of the administration’s policies and the way they do or do not “maintain Catholic identity.”

While this is a topic of considerable importance, we also feel that maintaining Notre Dame’s Catholic identity encompasses much more than debates over the finer points of health insurance policy. Being at a Catholic university means engaging with the complex, difficult issues and the violence of our world today. It means orienting ourselves toward those who are marginalized and working toward a vision of a shared future. Being part of a Catholic/catholic community means creating a place at the table for everyone and acknowledging what Jesus says in the Gospel of Matthew: “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” It is when we fail to acknowledge the worth of all people and ignore our call to be peacemakers that we start to lose our Catholic/catholic identity.

We hope that you will consider attending the conference on April 13 and 14 as we continue to search for the place where “truth and mercy have met together; peace and justice have kissed.” Cornel West writes, “America … needs citizens who love it enough to re-imagine and re-make it,” and we think the same can be said about our Notre Dame community. Join us as we re-imagine and re-make the world to become one in which the ideals King fought for and dedicated his life to are actualized.

More information about the Student Peace Conference can be found at nd.edu/~peacecon/ or by emailing [email protected]. The deadline to register is Thursday, April 5.


2018 Student Peace Conference Co-Chairs

Elizabeth Hascher


Erin Prestage


March 27

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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