Recently a letter from Andy Windham appeared in this section expressing "shock and dismay" that students from Saint Mary Help of Christians School would participate with other parochial and public school students in a model United Nations program sponsored by Georgia Southern University. This letter is written to clarify why St. Mary's chooses to give its students experience in current international issues, logic and public speaking in this forum of over 400 talented middle school students from several Southeastern states. The school's rationale is in two parts; the first is secular and the second is spiritual.
Mr. Windham's assertion that a model United Nations exercise serves only to "propagandize -- brainwash" students is quite astonishing considering the diversity of the countries and issues found in this organization. Would Mr. Windham have us believe that presidents Harry Truman ("the buck stops here"), Dwight Eisenhower (World War II allied commander), John Kennedy and George Bush (both combat-decorated naval officers) would promote a U.N. agenda that in Mr. Windham's words is "both anti-American and pro-totalitarian" and "promotes Communist and socialist causes around the world"?
I think that most objective historians would give these presidents credit for promoting U.S. interests while participating in the U.N. as a forum to resolve international issues and reduce the incidence of armed conflict in this nuclear age.
From a spiritual/philosophical viewpoint, participation in the model United Nations is also appropriate for St. Mary's students. Christ's parable of the Good Sa maritan challenges us to love our neighbor. If our Lord could call upon his fellow Hebrews to show and accept love from the outcast Samaritan, should we not be willing to enter into dialogue with those who may hold to beliefs and traditions that differ from our own?
Scripture tells us that we are all made in God's image and that what we do for each other we do for Him. In that spirit, children from families of different faith traditions, Protestant, Jewish, Moslem, as well as Catholic, have been represented in our student body over the years. We attempt to teach our students to respect, not fear, those of other religions and cultures.
We should be encouraging all efforts to help students develop the skills necessary to articulate their beliefs and feelings in an increasingly diverse and complex world.
Keith Darr, M.Ed., Ed.S., Aiken
(Editor's note: The author is the principal of St. Mary Help of Christians School.)