Messiah University receives nearly $1 million grant to combat racism

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MECHANICSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — As the country wrestles with racial unrest, a Midstate university is launching a program to try to make a real difference, and a major grant is making it happen.

Peace on earth is meeting “no justice, no peace.”

“If there’s anything meaningful that faith can play in any role of substance in the public square, it needs to prove itself,” said Drew Hart, assistant professor of theology at Messiah University.

Messiah University plans to help faith communities do just that through a five-year program that involves small teams from 12 local Christian congregations.

“Training sessions, seminars — but also learning experiences. So like, going on a Civil Rights bus tour for a few days and also learning about our region’s history,” Hart said.

Specifically, its focus will be how the region has been impacted by racism. Hart said the program will help congregations think beyond their traditions.

“The history of racism — also opportunities to make a difference locally. It seems like no better time than striking while the iron is hot right now,” Hart said.

Hart said the program was in the works before this year’s resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, because they’ve long understood that faith hasn’t always been faithful.

“Not all churches, obviously, but many churches have failed historically throughout the course of the United States history,” Hart said.

As for Messiah’s history, Hart hopes the program will spark a lasting change where congregations connect with their neighborhoods and serve a common good.

“So much good can come out of communities once they get a sense of where we’ve been been and where they need to go,” Hart said.

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