Feed on
Posts
comments

Justice For All?

By Jack Puricelli, ‘25

I began working for the Indianapolis-based Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic the summer before my junior year of college. I was a high-achieving college student with law school aspirations, so naturally I sought out pro bono work to diversify my resume. It was in my individualistic search for accolades that I witnessed the extent of America’s collective legal suffering.

My first day at The Clinic laid bare the scale of suffering in Indianapolis and the inadequate response to said suffering. My introduction was innocuous enough—a routine walkthrough of their office at Trinity Outreach Center, meeting the staff attorneys, paralegals, and volunteers I would be working with, and a brief introduction by Executive Director Erin Hall to the many projects I would be working on during my stay. However, my first assignment was as lowly as it was grueling—reception duty. For my first two days on the job, I sat at the front desk, answered phone calls, directed clients to their appointments, and referred potential clients to organizations better suited to their needs.

I will never forget the first man I spoke to that day. He was older black man in his late 40s or early 50s. His shorts and t-shirt were worn and faded, and he had a makeshift sack slung on his shoulder, holding an assorted mix of clothes, toiletries, and personal items. His parched expression spoke of his desperate situation. This man had been evicted from his home last week after failing to keep up with rent–a combination of inflation, COVID-19, and steady rent hikes had pushed him out of the home he had known for years. The Marion County Sherriff gave him 15 minutes to vacate his home—the sling over his shoulder held what little of his life he could gather in that brief time.  A maintenance worker at his old apartment complex told him squatters were now living in his home—he asked if there was anything I could do.

Eviction and landlord-tenant disputes are not outside the purview of Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic. The Clinic is one of the partners with the City of Indianapolis to provide legal services through the Tenant Advocacy Project to renters facing eviction. TAP services are a no-cost legal remedy to renters in a crisis meant to keep tenants in their homes. TAP services are provided before or on the day of an eviction hearing, not as a remedy after the fact. In the eyes of the law, the cruel and unjust situation before him was legally sanctioned. The Marion County Sheriff’s Department enforced his removal. The small claims court of his township considered it justified. The judge who removed him from his home believed his ruling was in accordance with the law. The statutes of Indiana dictated the function and path of this depraved sequence of events. I had no legal services to offer him. So, I had no legal services to offer him.

My first day was not an anomaly—nor was the life of that man. 50 million American households live at or below 125% of the Federal poverty line, with a higher proportion of black households in poverty and suffering legal and financial distress because of COVID-19 than non-white households (The Justice Gap 23-24). Of 2021 low-income families, nearly 50% of households faced consumer legal issues (primarily debt collection) or healthcare issues (securing insurance coverage, incorrect billing, and difficulty accessing necessary healthcare) (The Justice Gap 33-34). The state of financial and home security for America’s poorest is equally as shocking: 33% of low-income households–43% of renters–experienced at least one legal housing issue (lease disputes, landlords falling behind on repairs, falling behind on rent, and being evicted or receiving an eviction notice) (The Justice Gap 34). In a nation of unprecedented wealth and prosperity, where all are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, how can its poorest suffer to this degree? In a nation proud of its legal history and the resiliency and fairness of its judiciary, how is this dearth of justice allowed? Maybe I’m asking the wrong question. Instead of asking why there is no justice, I should be asking if this is the justice we want as Americans.

Legal Services Corporation. 2022. The Justice Gap: The Unmet Civil Legal Needs of Low-income Americans. Prepared by Mary C. Slosar, Slosar Research LLC.

 

 

By Rachel Christie, ’24

These past few months working for the Jewish Community Center of Indianapolis have really flown by. I didn’t expect loving this internship as much as I did, and it’s safe to say a big part of that came from the amazing people here at the J.

Growing up in a predominantly Jewish area of Connecticut, I spent a lot of my younger years at the local JCC of Greater New Haven. When I saw this internship open, I knew I had to apply. I thought it would be a good way for me, as a journalism student, to branch out into strategic communication, and to get a taste of other work in the communications field. Little did I know I would be learning much more than just graphic design here.

There were a few notable high holidays in the Jewish religion that I was able to observe this past semester, my favorite of which being Sukkot. Even though I was familiar with Judaism, I was not aware of the holiday. The J had a lovely staff meeting outside in the Sukkah, where we got to eat breakfast and create crafts to decorate the inside of the hut. That was the first time where I really felt that I belonged in the staff community.

The Jewish Community Center of Indianapolis cares for its staff, and I could tell that through my ‘Ask the Staff’ video series, where I interviewed seven staff members and asked them a range of questions. During many of the interviews, it became clear that the J feels like a family for many staff members, and that the sense of community they have at work is one of their favorite parts of the job.

Later in the semester, the J held a staff Mifgash, or encounter, where we got to learn more about other people on our staff, as well as the Jewish religion. I thought this event was special, as I’m not sure many other organizations would allow their employees to have half a day off from work to learn how to grow with one other. Even though I was an intern, and I could only say for an hour, I felt very connected to the other staff members, and loved being a part of the Mifgash.

In every project I worked on at the J, I learned more about my own vocational aspirations, as well as Jewish religion and culture. My internship director, Hanna, was a great resource in terms of both communications work and Jewish knowledge, and we had some good conversations throughout my time working with her. With the atrocities that took place in Israel, I never felt such a strong bond from a workplace as I did at the J. I know I will thoroughly miss the community that I found at the JCC of Indianapolis, but I am grateful for the experience which will certainly help me in my future endeavors.

By Alison Miccolis, ‘24

I have always been an independent worker. Yes, I am outgoing and love talking with people. But when it comes to work, I have always taken the more solitary approach. I never enjoyed studying with friends or working on group projects. I spent my entire first year of college in my room in Rhode Island — learning and meeting people via my laptop screen.

That means when I started as the Center for Faith and Vocation Communications Intern in August, it was a big transition for me. I learned an important lesson though. And looking back, it was a critical lesson for me to learn. I learned about the power of working as a team.

The CFV is very collaborative — staff members constantly in conversation working on projects and initiatives they are passionate about. People from all different backgrounds who identify with all different groups come together to serve one Butler community.

For most of my collegiate career I have worked by myself on my computer. Homework, editing and remote internships all kept me in my comfort zone of working at my desk in my room. When I started at the CFV, I had to transition that work to an office where people are coming in and out, asking questions and checking in.

The experience provided me with a perspective that was lacking at all my previous internships. I learned that if we talk-through problems with people who have different life experiences than us, the best solution is often a combination of everyone’s ideas. While I may have a plan that works, hearing someone else’s point of view often enhances that idea or gives it a depth I would not have been able to simply because I do not have the same experiences as that person.

I got to work with people of different ages, different educational backgrounds, different faiths and walks of life. I practiced active listening in every conversation I had while sitting in “The Blue House.” Not only did I appreciate everyone’s advice when it came to what I was working on, I also appreciated the smaller moments — saying hi when someone made a cup of coffee in the kitchen, asking how their event went or hearing the challenges they were facing that day.

While there are many things I can point to that showcase how I have grown as a professional through my internship, I think my newfound appreciation for teamwork is going to make the biggest difference when it comes to future career opportunities and coworker relationships. Thank you to all of my teammates at the CFV. You do amazing work, and I am proud to have worked alongside you this semester.

 

 

By Jenna Burd, ‘26

One weekend in third grade my childhood best friend and I had a sleepover. It was cute and fun, we ate cookies and candy until our stomachs hurt and gossiped about boys until the wee hours of the morning. However, when that morning rolled around, it was time to go to her Lutheran church. My parents are an interfaith couple. My dad is Jewish, my mom is non-denominational Christian. I grew up attending back-to-back Hanukkah and Christmas services, lighting the menorah, and going on Easter egg hunts. Let’s just say I got the best of both worlds as a kid. The thing I admire most about my parents is they exposed me equally to both religions and allowed me to choose my religion when I was ready. But I was still in the process of figuring out what religion I wanted to follow in third grade, and going to an unfamiliar church scared the heck out of me. I squirmed in the wooden pews for hours listening to strangers chanting hymns I didn’t understand. The plain truth was that third grade me was very uncomfortable with people who were different from me.

Fast forward ten years later, I am attending Cru worship night one day and a Diwali celebration the next. From my experiences with being a CFV scholar and an intern, I’ve grown in empathy and broken down cultural barriers. After all, we’re all human at the end of the day. I support any ideology that believes in something bigger than oneself. I believe in fostering hope.

My favorite internship project this year was pioneering Breakfast, Books and Big Ideas: An Interfaith Book Club. We had a solid group of five members attend five sessions over the fall semester and asked them to read a section from Life of Pi for discussion over Starbucks. We discussed everything from how faith relates to suffering all the way to favorite restaurants in Broad Ripple. I really enjoyed getting close with this tight-knit group this semester and I’m looking forward to another one!

Spiritual studies should be a process of self-exploration. Your choice to identify with a faith or be agnostic should be based on personal experiences that have shaped you throughout life. “Everyone ought to challenge the things they’ve been told; your faith ought to be personal to you, church or not. If it’s not, then how can you have true faith?” After all, what’s the point of having faith if you’re not bought in. Faith fluidity is vital to protecting the youth from close-mindedness which evolves into discrimination and strong hatred. That being said, I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to intern for the CFV and broaden my horizons. This experience has truly transformed me from that scared little girl in a Lutheran Church to a confident, empathetic human being.

 

By Stasia Raebel, ’24

Working with the Center for Interfaith Cooperation has been an incredibly meaningful experience. I was involved in many events that brought our community together. From sharing food with others from various backgrounds, sharing prayers from different faith paths, and coming together to hear music and watch diverse dances from multiple traditions, this experience allowed me to collaborate with new people and help bridge connections across several faiths.

The Festival of Faiths, hosted in downtown Indianapolis every September, brought over 50 different faith traditions from central Indiana together for a celebration. This was a great start to my internship, and I enjoyed speaking with people from faiths that I had little knowledge about before my internship. This experience definitely helped me grow my religious literacy.

In addition, I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in Sacred Space tours. Through this, I would go to various places of worship in the Indianapolis community. Each faith welcomed us into their space with open arms, and it was a great educational opportunity to learn more about their beliefs and how they practice their religions. Some of these visits also included sharing a meal and diving into their faith celebrations, such as a Diwali celebration with the Hindu Temple of Central Indiana. These experiences widened my perspectives and made me eager to interact with and learn about more faith traditions in the future. It was also incredibly powerful to hear the youth perspectives through our Emerging Interfaith Leaders Dialogues. These were run upon the completion of each of our tours. Learning about other faith traditions from our own is crucial to grow empathy and become better educated citizens within our communities.

As part of my internship, I got to learn more about how non-for-profit organizations function. Seeing the behind the scenes of the grant proposals and administrative tasks was incredibly useful to learn, and this also gave me an even greater appreciation for non-profits and the challenging work they do to help our communities. Overall, I highly enjoyed my experience working with the CIC. I know that I will take the things I learned through this experience with me for the rest of my life.

by Noah Giddings, ’24

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” As Nelson Mandela reflected on the Apartheid era, this was his greatest conclusion. People are not born either good or evil but learn both over time. Shown hatred and we hate. Shown love and we love. The potential for both rests within each of us.

Our modern world slants sharply in one direction: towards hatred over love. Within the past few years alone, devastating acts of violence and hatred have ravaged our society. The death of George Floyd. The Russo-Ukrainian war. The Covid pandemic. As a planet and a species, we seem to be scholars of hate, Luddites against love.

But what can we do? What possibility do ordinary people have for interrupting this cycle of conflict and contempt? A local Indianapolis church has modeled one radical solution.

Over the past three months, I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside Indianapolis First Congregational Church as their Just-Peace intern and learn about their philosophy of radical inclusivity and love. Their focus and concern for love is immediately apparent.

A banner outside the church advertises their commitment to Just-Peace and their Sunday service bulletin celebrates their open-and-affirming status. It doesn’t take long to realize that First Congregation takes seriously Jesus’ injunction to “love one another”. In that vein of love, First Congregational invites all members of the local community to share in worship — only hate is not welcome in their halls. Their commitment is to a version of Christianity in which love is the first, best response to the hatred which permeates our world.

In my time with First Congregational, I’ve seen this commitment play out firsthand. Sunday mornings begin with dialogue and reflection on love and peace. Pastor Sarah Lund, the head Pastor of First Congregational, reaffirms their open-and-affirming status soon after each service begins. The church rebukes hateful legislation by writing their representatives en masse. Congregants attend rallies and make visits to the statehouse to support improved mental health care. First Congregational’ s commitment to love and, by extension, peace and justice is more than mere boilerplate. The members of this community affect these visions both in terms of relationships and of cultivating civil discourse with regard to political views. Love isn’t an idea. Love is an action.

As the semester ends and I part ways with First Congregational Church, I’ll hold onto this vision of radical love — an inclusive, unrestricted love which accepts all through activity and empathy. The love of First Congregational offers one answer to the hate which so pervades our modern world. In a sleepy neighborhood on the north side of Indianapolis, we find a powerful demonstration of the efficacy of love.  What better example of Jesus’ life is there than this?

 

by Emma Nobbe, ’24

During my time as the Communication Intern for the Butler University Center for Faith and Vocation (CFV), I have learned so much about what it means to be a part of a team that lives and breathes its mission and values. Here, I have had the opportunity to grow my skills as a designer, writer, and leader through the support of my fellow interns and mentorship from my supervisor and other staff members.

When I came into this internship, I was excited to discover more about the CFV and immerse myself in the community as I navigated my role in maintaining the organization’s social media, newsletters, and other outward communication efforts, and I was happy to find a community dedicated to their message of interfaith dialogue and diversity.

From a logistics standpoint, I have had the opportunity to grow as a designer and writer through consistent practice through this internship, but during my time here, I have come to deeply value the growth I have had as a leader and a person. With exposure to so many new ideas and opinions, I have learned what it means to experience an interfaith community that opens its arms to all faith, secular, and non-secular vocations.

Overall, through my time here, I have experienced challenges and accomplishments that have pushed me to become stronger in my academic, professional, and personal life. As I enter my final year as a college student, I cannot be more grateful for all of the things I have learned at the CFV, and I am confident that this experience will help me to succeed as I take my next step into a professional career.

 

by Abby Fulton, ’23

Before starting my internship at Faith in Indiana, I had very little experience building community power and lobbying for a cause I was passionate about. I was incredibly nervous that I would not have the skill set necessary to accomplish these goals, but as I near the end of my internship, I am happy to say I have grown in my professional and personal life. The main portion of my internship consisted of educating and building power around mental health legislation in the state of Indiana. For many Hoosiers going through a mental health crisis, they are given inadequate resources to cope with their struggles and instead are placed in the carceral system. Faith in Indiana is working to fix this problem by working to pass a bill entitled SB1: Behavioral Health Matters which would expand mental health resources in our state and help create safe communities for the citizens of Indiana. In my role, I was able to advocate for this work on campus and worked to involve Butler students throughout the process and help them learn how they could use their power to positively impact the world around them. Instead of viewing power as negative, I wanted to help teach people that power can be used for good and that we have the power to change things when we work together and build community action. I was able to speak to multiple groups such as the Lilly Scholars Network and host an assembly towards the end of my internship which focused on the intersectionality of mental health and the incarceration system. Overall, I grew immensely through this experience and was able to grow in my advocacy knowledge and educating others on civic literacy. As the semester closes, I am grateful for the opportunity to work with this group and am excited to see the work they do in the future!

by Abigail Dame, ’24

My Center for Faith and Vocation Spring ’23 Internship provided me with the opportunity to experience how the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic is transforming people’s lives through the power of hope. There is a different part of the Indianapolis community that Butler University students do not often get to fully experience. Once a week, I traveled downtown to the Re-Entry Justice Program, Expungement Help Desk; I felt connected to downtown Indy and the individuals who came to the Help Desk for a second chance. Many individuals cannot have stable housing, job security, or close family relationships due to their past. The Help Desk can guide these individuals to hope and provide a space where they can move forward.

While interning at the Help Desk, I learned how to complete many kinds of paperwork such as conviction and non-conviction petitions and intake forms. I also worked on projects to assist in data collection and created learning materials for future interns. Before completing this internship, I did not know what expungement was or that there was an organization in Indianapolis that helped people get their criminal records expunged at no cost to them. I had little to no knowledge of legal language before this internship and now can use this knowledge to further advocate for the expungement progress later in life. This position allowed me to help people in a way I had no prior knowledge of. Watching the relief and joy on people’s faces when they realized that their records would be cleared warmed my heart and I was tremendously grateful for my own privilege. The stories I heard from people who came to the Help Desk will remain in my memory forever and I will continue to reflect on all I have learned from this opportunity.

 

by Finn Williams, ’24

When reflecting on my internship at the Center for Interfaith Cooperation, I find myself at a crossroads. My time here has offered me a litany of amazing opportunities, and helped me gain a considerable amount of vocational insight, but more importantly has supposed a plethora of challenges for myself moving forward: namely, outside of professionally organized settings, how can I lead a life congruent with the ethos and mission of sincere, productive, and practical interfaith work? Surely the wisdom I have gained from this experience is pertinent, and the relationships I have made will be invaluable in my service of such a notion, but outside of the forums presented by the CIC I can no longer rely on the guardrails that were previously at my disposal, and thus am challenged to live a life which honors its desires; a notion much easier said than done.

My experience at the CIC has taught me that interfaith work is entirely difficult. That is not to its detriment, but it is certainly the reality: interfaith work can be taxing at several points. However, the fruits of such an experience are entirely evident: the creation of a community which truly values its neighbors across spiritual, racial, and economic barriers. Such an imperative is one which anyone could identify merit and value, however it comes at the cost of encountering conversation which calls into question the very claims which one holds to be ultimate. Such a notion at first glance appears terrifying, but in hindsight can easily be viewed as beautiful: to grow stronger in one’s faith at the hands of an entirely different one, while additionally introducing a sincere and sustainable bond with another across personal spiritual divides, is a notion which I believe anyone would identify as being inherently virtuous.

This notion, however, requires a sense of humility and empathy which many are taught to avoid in the context of inter-religious experience. Thankfully, my time at the CIC has helped me to continue to cultivate such virtues in my daily life. It has challenged me to identify where I may fall short within such work, and how I can move forward to rectify my prejudice and biases. It has challenged me to be diligent, respectful, and honorable in all work that I do. It has shown me, above all else, that love is a beautiful tool when wielded with sincerity and vulnerability and can enable you to journey across barriers you previously thought were impenetrable.

I look forward to continuing my interfaith journey, and I thank the Center for Interfaith Cooperation for being my guide, albeit ending far too soon.

 

Older Posts »