Students and broadcast speakers present national Q Union event

 

Joyeuse Senga speaking at Q Union. I WILLIAM MARLOW, STAFF WRITER

 

Parker Millican speaking at Q Union. I WILLIAM MARLOW, STAFF WRITER

 

McKenna Neville speaking at Q Union. I WILLIAM MARLOW, STAFF WRITER

 

In conjunction with 150 cities around the world, Samford students listened to New York Times columnist David Brooks, author Kara Powell and music artist Jason Petty – also known as Propaganda – during “Healing Our Divided Nation.” The national Q Union event was hosted by the Office of Student Leadership in Brock Recital Hall on Friday, Oct. 27 at 6 p.m.

Alongside broadcast national speakers, students Parker Millican, Joyeuse Senga and McKenna Neville spoke in person.

Senga, a Rwandan international student, arrived in the U.S. during the 2016 presidential election, where she watched America’s divide widen. She said Rwanda, her native country, also struggled with divisiveness.  In 1994, the Hutus and Tutsis clashed, which culminated with the Rwandan Genocide.

“Our differences were magnified which led friends, families and neighbors to kill each other,” she said.

Within 100 days, she said nearly one million people died.

Senga said she turned to the Christian faith for guidance, but it intensified her uncertainty. Her culture encourages community through Christian values. Ninety-four percent of Rwandans are Christian, according to the U.S. Department of State.

“Why should I believe what’s taught in Sunday school if such a horrific tragedy can happen?” she asked.

Senga said she prioritizes the individual due to these experiences. She said someone can be declared equal, but change begins when it’s an individual value.

“We must take the initiative and change our hearts,” she said.

Senga said people must also respect differences.

“I can’t find solutions in my Rwanda culture that the U.S. should immediately adopt,” she said. There are challenges when cultures merge, but it requires patience. Senga said people shouldn’t blind themselves to differences.

“I feel I’ll never be American because I was born in Rwanda. That’s a fact,” she said.

Despite differences, Senga said common ground exists, and listening builds it.

“We’re different, but we’re all humans,” she said.

Rather than being defined by the genocide, Senga said Rwandans are shaping their futures around empathy and unity.

“They’re putting these values at the forefront, and choosing an exemplary life,” Senga said.

During the healing, she said no one will be left behind.

People should remember the genocide, according to Senga, but shouldn’t solely judge Rwanda based on this moment. Rather, Senga said people should remember Rwandans’ resilience.

“We’re coming together to heal our nation, and building our people, trust and forgiveness,” she said.

Parker Millican, a junior pre-business major, extended help at a Greek refugee camp in 2016.

Millican discussed the refugee crisis, but rather than prioritizing statistics, he shared an 11-year-old boy’s story.

Millican said stories promote empathy and encourage different perspectives.

“Stories strip away fear,” Millican said.

Millican said the boy’s story humanizes the 22.5 million displaced refugees.

The boy abandoned his home after his father was killed in a gunfight, according to Millican. He fled with his uncle, aunt and three cousins. The boy’s mother stayed behind due to limited resources.

“He’s seen more in his 11 years than I will probably see in my life,” Millican said.

Despite the boy’s hardships, Millican said the boy wanted to help. While in the camp, the boy followed Millican every day. So, Millican gave him a job.

Millican said fear fuels America’s divisions — citizens fear each other and their differing opinions, and that fear prevents Americans from helping others.  

“It cripples us,” he said

Millican said stories also disprove Americans and Middle Easterners’ preconceived notions.

Even though they are outsiders, Millican said refugees can discover hope through Jesus Christ.

“They’re searching for safety and hope,” Millican said.

Rather than hiding inside a bubble, Millican said Christians must confront the dark with the Gospel’s light.  

McKenna Neville, a sophomore communication studies major, remembers memorizing Bible verses with her father every week. Neville said her parents help her.

However, when Neville asked her classmate about her parents, she just stared before admitting that she lives with her grandmother.

Neville learned that her classmate testified against her parents in court. Neville struggled relating with her.

“We lived into two different worlds,” Neville said.

Neville said Samford students struggle relating to people with different sexual orientations, genders, races and ethnicities. She said students don’t interact with these groups.

Neville said she rarely encounters non-Christians on campus. She believes that Samford should be inclusive and welcome everyone.

“Everyone deserves to belong because we’re all humans. We all need to feel comfortable and be ourselves,” Neville said.

Neville said students prioritize their image, and include people to makes themselves look better.

“We’re called to sit with people different or alone,” Neville said.

William Marlow, Staff Writer

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