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Bethel College Community for Justice and Peace: A place for action and reflection
Here's how the club hopes to cultivate action and conversations related to peace and justice.
Every Monday at 3 p.m., a small group of Bethel students can be found meeting at the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution house down the street from campus. These students, the members of the Bethel College Community for Justice and Peace (BC CJP), discuss a wide range of topics, from environmental justice to Bethel housing policy.
Founded in 2021, BC CJP is a club at Bethel aiming to, according to their mission statement, “foster critical thought and build community among Bethel College students to organize action that seeks justice, build peace, and is in solidarity with marginalized and oppressed people.”
Josué Coy Dick, a junior from North Newton, and founding member of the club, said of the motivation for forming the organization, "We felt that Bethel College lacked a space for more policy change-oriented advocacy and we hoped that BC CJP could fill that void.” He continued, “We thought there needed to be a student voice to advocate for peace and justice in the Bethel College community.”
"We felt that Bethel College lacked a space for more policy change-oriented advocacy and we hoped that BC CJP could fill that void.” He continued, “We thought there needed to be a student voice to advocate for peace and justice in the Bethel College community.”
Josué Coy Dick
Eli Regier, from Newton, co-president of BC CJP shared a similar motivation for the club. He said that while there are plenty of clubs on campus celebrating diversity, inclusion, and peacebuilding, he appreciated that BC CJP is a “more action oriented club.”
“I’d like the club to be an engine for student change,” Regier continued.
Beyond BC CJP’s policy goals, Coy Dick shared, “BC CJP changes and evolves. It is flexible to what folks need and want to get out of it.” Abigail Chappel Deckert, from North Newton, co-president of the club, found great meaning in their efforts to change Bethel’s housing policy.
“In the spring [of 2023], some new housing stuff came up that I was really upset about. … So I went to [BC CJP] and they were like, ‘sure, write an article.’ So I did, and over 400 people read it. And then we got a resolution made up through the Student Government Association that is in the works now.”
Along with responding to needs that they see in the Bethel community, BC CJP puts on racial healing circles in conjunction with KIPCOR, holds vigils, and publishes a magazine called Survival. The Survival home page on Substack describes the publication as a place that “center[s] the voices of those marginalized by Bethel College or the Bethel College community and create[s] space for valuable perspectives that are often ignored.”
Throughout interviews with various club members, Survival often came up as a key product of BC CJP. Peter Buller, a junior from Inman, said of Survival, “We’ve documented history and we've had conversations that I think … the broader community doesn’t get to experience often.”
Coy Dick said of Survival, “[It] focuses on voices that are often ignored or sidelined, and gives those folks the chance to speak their mind. It includes creative content, reflections on our experiences, opinion pieces, and a unique podcast on Bethel black history.”
BC CJP has two faculty advisors from Bethel College: Sheryl Wilson and Damon Klasson. In speaking to Wilson, Survival and its corresponding podcast were brought up as one of the most important things the club does. “BC CJP has been so intentional about highlighting the hidden things that some of the black alums [of Bethel] have done,” she said. “Uncovering things about Bethel’s black history is still a project that continues to be worked on.”
Regular attendance to BC CJP meetings is usually small, but Chappel Deckert doesn’t mind. “I really like that it's a small club. I think it would be great if it would expand, but it really makes for … a nice environment for people to just say whatever,” she said.
When asked who should join BC CJP, Regier had a succinct answer: “Anyone. Anyone that has something that they want to say and who wants to be heard.”
While there were many things given as the best part of being in the club, Chappel Deckert summed all of the answers up well, saying, “it’s just satisfying to have an impact.”