Pride flags with more to go: How the BCJP is immersing itself into the Bethel culture
The club works to "seek peace and justice for every student" to make people from all backgrounds feel at home at Bethel College.
Seeking peace and justice for every student, regardless of religious affiliation and philosophical perspective is what the Bethel College community is about.
This statement is the mission of the Bethel Community for Justice and Peace (BCJP) — a club that works to give Bethel students who feel marginalized a chance to be part of the larger community and given a voice with the right to stand up and speak.
To learn more about this group, I spoke with club leaders Capri Bisom, Peter Buller, and Vanessa Torres. And to backtrack through the history of this young club, you have to start with an idea from last fall.
Every year, Bethel celebrates pride week in April. The events that take place during that time are typically organized by the school’s LGBTQIA+ club, BeLonGTo. They’re responsible for planning, scheduling, and hosting activities such as a drag show or educational opportunities for people wanting to learn more about the LGBTQIA+ community.
However, the BCJP had the idea of coming together with BeLonGTo to coordinate the hanging of pride flags around campus. After agreeing on a plan and proposing a bill to the Student Government Association (SGA) that eventually passed, students observed the colorful banners hanging on the lampposts around the Green and in front of the Bethel College Mennonite Church.
The importance of these pride flags on campus as the BCJP’s grand entrance into Bethel culture has to do with several issues. As the BCJP members pointed out, at Bethel, many students and faculties who belong to the LGBTQIA+ community may not feel acknowledged and included at a Christian college.
Because of this, it’s important to show support to this community and to give them the trust and security that they’re not alone. Therefore, putting on the pride flag was a huge step in accomplishing a visible sign of belonging, togetherness, and acceptance
The work for the BCJP is far from complete, though. Each week, the group meets to discuss several ongoing societal issues and brainstorm how they could contribute ton their immediate community with respect to those issues.
Along the way, they haven’t been completely free of controversy — the group declined The Collegian’s questions about this topic.
After completing the pride flags project, the club worked with the Bethel Barbecue Club to provide meals for the local homeless shelter and assisted the Racial Healing Service. During Black History Month, they helped — and still are working to — uncover more of Bethel College’s connections to Black history.
The next goal for the BCJP is to implement a land acknowledgment, with the intention of learning and teaching more about the starting point of the United States and sparking a deeper discussion about the Indigenous community and its claim to the land prior to the later Mennonite settlers.
And as ideas continue to take shape and actions continue to change the culture of Bethel College, the BCJP isn’t losing sight of what it has set out to do.
“The whole community should feel welcomed,” Bisom, Buller, and Torres said.