By Charly Frisk
CSB/SJU students are advocating for peace through interacting with the St. Cloud community in mending race relations and promoting nonviolence.
On Nov. 6, the St. Cloud City Council will rule on a moratorium and among the audience will be members of our school community.
The moratorium is a proposal from City Council member Jeffrey Johnson that aims to temporarily ban refugees from entering the city to evaluate potential economic effects that might result from the increase of refugees.
However, in making time to access economic effects, many students believe that Johnson has failed to assess the social impacts on the community of not only St. Cloud, but also the CSB/SJU community.
“If it were to pass, we would have a culture of saying that the other—the stranger—we don’t have to welcome them,” CSB junior Danica Simonet, Peace Studies Club President said. “It would create more differences and divisions in our CSB/SJU community. It just creates more of a space for hatred and more of a space to not get to know people that have different religions than us, that look different than us, that have different countries of origin. Overall, that would affect our student body,”
On Oct. 23, the City Council invited community members to speak to understand these potential social impacts. Two hundred and fifty community members arrived.
Five speakers—all favoring refugees—spoke.
Though only five speakers addressed the attendees, there were ongoing conversations throughout the meeting. Instead of being in front of the microphone, these speakers echoed through the audience rows.
“It was a very powerful feeling—the tension of the support groups and the opposition groups. Both were very vocal. There were conversations going on the whole time we were there,” CSB senior Maya Hermerding, Peace Studies Club treasurer said.
Students that attended were able to see the rooted divide in the city of St. Cloud.
“St. Cloud was listed as the worst place for Somalis in Minnesota—the moratorium is not about solutions,” Simonet said. “It’s not working towards
solutions. Although maybe people in St. Cloud feel that maybe refugees are taking over, by having the moratorium there are no solutions. It really creates
division. Hatred. No solutions. There is no dialogue.”
However, despite the hatred, there is hope.
The meeting on Oct. 23 also brought forth a resolution. City Council member Jeff Goerger preemptively presented a resolution discouraging the exclusivity that results from the moratorium.
Hermerding describes that the proposal as a way of “saying that all people residing in St. Cloud have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and all are welcome.”
When the resolution passed, the students witnessed the joy of the community members as “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands” began to resonate through the audience.
“When they voted on the other City Council’s proposal they started singing about everyone being welcome. It burst out,” Hermerding said.
Peace Studies Club aims to actively advocate for inclusivity in the St. Cloud community. One of their projects works with the Peace Studies Department by teaching a conflict resolution program known as Take 10 to high school students.
In addition to the program, Peace Studies Club invites all students to attend the Nov. 6 meeting next week. They will provide transportation to those in need. In addition to transportation, Peace Studies Club is also providing a road map to strategize their nonviolent behavior at the meeting.
“Peace Studies Club is really wanting to outreach,” Simonet said. “To use our tools as peace studies students, to be involved. We see that we are change agents. Although we are in college, we still have a voice, and we still have power in changing the narratives that we are hearing. This is an unprecedented time. So we all have to get out there,” Simonet said.