The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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A Christian Response to Racial Prejudice

Following tensions on campus, pastor takes a new approach
Rich Villodas leads a discussion during last weeks talk on “A Christian Response to Racial Prejudice and Racism”

Students, faculty and other guests alike gathered on Thursday April 12 for a discussion on “A Christian Response to Racial Prejudice and Racism,” which was held by Student Government, Inc. in collaboration with the Department of Rhetoric,  Communication and Theatre.

The discussion was led by lead pastor of the New Life Fellowship Church in Elmhurst, New York, Rich Villodas. Villodas began the discussion on racial tension by speaking about the ZIP code, 11373, where his church is located, where the members of the church community come from more than 75 different countries.

“Issues pertaining to race and racial hostility — [they hit] home,” he said, commenting on the diversity of his church community, where more than 123 languages are spoken.

After speaking to the attendees about his own personal experiences with racial prejudice growing up as a Puerto Rican man in a diverse neighborhood, Villodas began to shift the conversation towards the “Christian response.”

Villodas noted that division, even within the church, often occurs due to the simplest of differences.  

“Historically, folks divide over the smallest things, and if folks divide over the smallest things, how much more is there going to be a sense of hostility and division not just within the life of a church, but our society as a whole?” Villodas said.

SGI Research and Development Co-Chair and Rhetoric student, Brianna Holmes, helped organize and arrange for Villodas to attend the event.

“We felt that it is important to integrate the Christian response to all of the racial issues that have been going on on campus in a broader aspect and to give another humbled perspective,” Holmes said.

Villodas began to develop the Christian response by speaking on issues such as institutional and systemic racism, using scriptures and quotes to unpack the heavy topics.

“When we talk about race and racial hostility, it’s important that we speak on it from at least two perspectives- maybe three perspectives,” Villodas said. “We have to speak of it individually, interpersonally and institutionally.”

“Having a Christian perspective lets you kind of see where everything has already been spelled out for us in the Bible and a lot of people usually don’t put the two together,” Holmes said.

Villodas ended the presentation portion of the discussion by offering a means on how to work for racial equality through the use of reconciliation.

He spoke on nine ways of bringing this to fruition, such as a deep commitment to listening to others, an honest examination of the history of racial inequality, growing in awareness of our own implicit racial bias and several others.

The discussion ended with a Q&A session, where audience members were able to touch upon subjects that Villodas had spoken about throughout his presentation.

Junior Chloe Mok regularly attends New Life Fellowship Church and was able to see the conversation her pastor brought to her own campus.

“I think a lot of times we get…both sides of the story and we get told what we should think,” Mok said. “But at the same time, we need to have a discussion where people are willing to sit down and listen to each other, and I think that’s what I gained the most out of this.”

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About the Contributor
Jillian Ortiz
Jillian Ortiz, Managing Editor
Jillian is a senior journalism major minoring in Spanish and International Studies. A member of the Torch since her freshman year, she has held several positions during her time at the publication: She started as a Staff Writer, then became Assistant News Editor, Assistant Chief Copy Editor, Chief Copy Editor, Business Manager, and now in her last year, she is serving as the Managing Editor for the publication. As Managing Editor, she hopes to increase the digital presence of the Torch by collaborating with the editors to create new online initiatives for both the website and the Torch's social media platforms. She would also like to increase coverage beyond the University level to help engage the local community with the publication. A concert enthusiast, during the Fall of 2019 she traveled to London to see Hozier in concert.   You can reach Jill at [email protected]
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