Jamaica: An International Immersion Experience

img_1091In this interview with Rev. Brandon Harris, he discusses his Magis excursion to Jamaica. Harris reflects on notions of community and shared humanity, and what happens to a society when profit is allowed to prevail.

Please, give us an overview of your trip.

The Magis Jamaica trip was sponsored by the Center for Social Justice and Campus Ministry, and was part of the Alternative Breaks Program. We stayed with local hosts and reflected together on the meaning of life in communities and the impact of profit over human dignity.

Tell us about your host.

We stayed at National Marian Shrine Our Lady of Dunsinane, in the Diocese of Mandeville, Jamaica. Our host was Fr. Patrick. He is of Kenyan descent and has been in Jamaica for many years. Fr. Patrick is charming, funny, and a deeply spiritual guide.

What does it mean to reflect on the meaning of life in communities?

We reflected on how life is lived in Jamaica around the intersections of religion, economics and ecology. Community in Jamaica is rooted around a strong familial and national identity, with an emphasis on hospitality and community around religion or familial origin. For example, we observed powerful family ties around an HIV Aids support group, as well as around a fishermen’s collective.

How did the students respond? 

The students met with fishermen on the south coast of Jamaica, spoke with women and men struggling with HIV, and shaved the faces of elders at a nursing home who had been abandoned by their families. As the students interacted with these people, I observed them starting to realize that community is formed around our shared humanity, and not around purely social, ethnic or religious belonging.

Our students were seeing that the devastation, whether it’s ecological, economic or political, is caused by forgetting our shared humanity. As we thought about a global community, we realized that Western Colonization often put profit before the care of humanity and care for the environment. As a group, we came to understand that justice is about putting care for others before profit, nation and self.


What did the Magis Jamaica mean to you? 

I was moved by the students’ ability and willingness to listen and observe as others shared their stories. Our trip was not defined so much by our doing but by our witnessing; listening to the stories and lives of others.

Written by Rev. Brandon Harris, Protestant Chaplain, Law Center and Main Campus