Student outreach event unites campus groups in fight against global poverty

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Student and community groups of different ideologies and faiths gathered together in unity to support Jubilee USA Network’s fight against global poverty Wednesday night.

The event, called “Berkeley United to End Global Poverty,” brought together Berkeley College Republicans, Cal Berkeley Democrats, the Jewish Student Union, the Muslim Student Association and Cal Veterans Group to engage in a discussion about international debt relief.

Jubilee USA Network, the main sponsor of the event, is a bipartisan coalition of 75 national organizations, including but not limited to church and Jewish organizations, labor, environmental and human rights groups.

As Jubilee USA Network’s first student outreach event, the night culminated with the event’s sponsors signing a joint resolution to be submitted to the ASUC that would support the Jubilee Act for Responsible Lending and Expanded Debt Cancellation in Congress. The act aims to fight global poverty by instituting fairer rules on transnational loaning and removing corporate loopholes that perpetuate the cycle of poverty around the world.

According to its website, the coalition has won more than $130 billion in debt relief, all of which has gone directly to rebuilding social infrastructure in foreign countries.

Alexander Salazar, a junior studying political economy, was moved that groups of different — and often adversarial — political or religious convictions were able to find common ground on topics such as closing corporate tax loopholes and sharpening transparency in the international financial system.

“Tonight at Berkeley, we’re creating a model that can be replicated at other universities,” said Eric LeCompte, executive director of Jubilee USA Network and the event’s keynote speaker. “It’s a model that says we can come together across party lines and religious divides to work together.”

Kerida Moates, a freshman studying history and political science who was one of 50 eventgoers, hopes the spirit of solidarity present in Wednesday night’s panel discussion will not dissipate with the event.  In fact, Wednesday night’s bipartisan, interfaith panel discussion was one in a series of efforts by the event’s sponsors designed to unite groups on campus.

The events’ organizers, Simon Rhee, the political director of CalDems, and Brendan Pinder, president of BCR, are working on creating opportunities for the clubs to continue interacting with one another.

“The political, cultural and religious divisions on campus need to be addressed,” Pinder said.

To help debunk the myth that groups cannot cooperate with each other, Pinder and Rhee intend on forming a Berkeley United Council to encourage groups of different political, cultural or religious backgrounds to address campuswide or nationwide issues together.

According to Rhee, the council would host socials through joint events or speaker series like Wednesday night’s united “evening of action.”

Contact Bo Kovitz at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @beau_etc.