“At the table with the saints”

| November 26, 2018 | 0 Comments

BY LUCIOUS LEBALLO

Navigating diversity is a personal journey; it is both beautiful and tough.

It requires a constant and deliberate personal effort to explore, discover, realise, accept and respect the true beauty of God’s creation both within and around you. Being human means being biased, being human means being a victim of bias and being human means having the choice to realise and address your bias. We are invited to share, listen, contemplate, embrace and acknowledge our diversity. We all have our own stories to tell, be they plain, awkward or remarkable. These stories need to be told in our own unique and authentic voices. This is the purpose of the three-year roadmap, titled “At the Table with the Saints”, which was recently launched by De La Salle Holy Cross College in Johannesburg. This plan allows our community to identify, rectify and comply with our 2020 transformation and diversity objectives.

De La Salle’s process

Inspired by our rich saintly heritage, “At the Table with the Saints” is a facilitated quarterly discussion forum, divided into nine diversity-related topics – three per year until 2020. Our community meets to share and contemplate different sections of our diversity. Through empathy, understanding and respect, we discuss awkward, wonderful and often humbling personal stories. The topics include race, gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, thinking styles, marital status, ethnicity, parental status, age, education, physical and mental ability, income, occupation, language, geographic location, experiences, culture, privilege, stereotyping, prejudice, discrimination, and implicit and explicit bias. To facilitate continuous engagement, reflection and discernment, the pastoral cycle is used during the discussions. The stages are: experience, analysis, reflection, action and celebration. During these stages, we constantly ask ourselves: What is happening now? What needs to be changed? Why are things the way they are, and who controls them? What does our faith have to say about this? What are we going to do to make things different? And, what have we achieved, and what still needs to be done? To maintain order and an inclusive welcoming environment during discussion, the following rules apply and are nonnegotiable: we listen respectfully, without interrupting. We criticise ideas, never individuals. We commit to learning and not debating. We avoid blame, speculation and inflammatory language. In keeping with our saintly heritage, the Beatitudes, adopted from the Gospel of Matthew, have been adopted as our affirmation and guide us on how to be – before, during and after our engagements.

Turning biases and barriers into bridges

As a community, we are challenged to turn barriers and biases into bridges. We are encouraged to recognise our conscious and unconscious bias and eliminate it. We seek to open our minds to different ways of thinking, to treat people as individuals and not as members of a group, and to judge them purely on our interactions with them. Assume good intentions at first encounter. Be an ally – have the courage to speak up when intolerant behaviour is witnessed. Diversity does not require that individuals lose their identity, language, ethnic, culture and religion affiliations. We are a generation bestowed with significant privilege – a privilege to undo and eliminate the effects of generations of bias and to deliver to the next generation a more inclusive and tolerant world filled with compassion.

Lucious Leballo is a board member and parent at De La Salle Holy Cross College. He is an active participant in the school’s transformation and diversity process.

Category: Summer 2018

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