Student-led Protest on Middle Eastern Conflicts is Opportunity for Education

By: Melissa Glover

A protest urging students to educate themselves on the Palestinian-Israeli war occurred Friday, Feb. 2, in front of Brown Chapel at Point Loma Nazarene University. Students held flags and posters, as well as flyers that students could take that included facts about the war and a QR code that redirected people to, a Palestinian resource guide. 

Public Safety and PLNU faculty attended to support and protect these students, but the protest was entirely student-led. 

The protest was organized by Makenna Givens, a second-year art education major, with the support of other PLNU students.

The students were unaffiliated with any club or group on campus.

“[They are] just students who care about human rights and fighting for justice for humanity,” Givens said. “We’re here to show our solidarity for the Palestinian people and to open up the silence our school has brought down upon this issue.”

Palestinian students showed their appreciation to the protestors for bringing awareness and support to this issue. Joelle Zabaneh, one of PLNU’s Palestinian students, showed her appreciation for the protesters.

“I knew about it but I was weary to join because I am Palestinian, so it is a bit different for me,” Zabaneh said. “For me, it wasn’t worth the risk but I definitely respected what they were doing. I’m just glad someone is doing something; I wish I could do something like this but I’m so scared, I’m so scared.”

Last semester anatomy professor and Middle Eastern Student Association (MEA) advisor Joy Balta, history professor William Wood, and theology professor Michael Lodahl participated on a panel in Colt Forum to “provide space for both mourning and learning,” according to Dean of Students Jake Gilbertson, in an email to all undergraduate students.

The panel was promoted through an email sent out by Gilbertson, as well as through the MEA and Mosaic Club on campus. Zabaneh, Givens and Balta said they want PLNU to take action to bring awareness on campus and provide more ways to educate students. 

“That is something that we can do … there’s no harm for everybody to learn more about this and see how can they support their own peers,” Balta said in an interview. 

PLNU currently offers free counseling sessions for all students through the Wellness Center on campus and has been promoting its services to students. According to Zabaneh, it has also been mentioned in chapel that the Point Loma campus pastors are “praying for peace.”  PLNU  has not taken a public stance about the Palestinian-Israeli war.

“As Christians, we are supposed to care for everybody, not just those close to us,” Balta said. 

Members of the PLNU community shared some ways that the school can move forward. Givens said that ignoring this issue would be a big “miss out on a spiritual need” for the school. 

Balta said, “We need to reach out to students and ask them ‘Are you impacted by this?’ [and] ‘What can we do to support you?’ rather than remind them of [the] general care that they have or the general resources that they have. There might be some other things, more specific, that need to be done.” 

Students have also expressed the need for more educational and informative opportunities. 

“I wish there were more ways to educate students … the panel was a good step in the right direction,” said Zabaneh.