Each of us is a precious gift from God to the world. The providence made us flourish in a social setting in relation to our sisters and brothers as members of a family, a neighborhood, a city, a region, a country and the world. This is where the issue of culture comes in. Culture humanizes us and organizes our human nature. It shapes us so much that we go beyond our familiar environment and participate in a broader social context.
Looking through the eyes of faith, we see the interconnection of humans in society reflecting the mystery of the Triune God who is love. “Each SVD missionary who experiences the love of Christ is impelled by the same love to bear witness to Christ in the world through a commitment to mission that is both renewing and transformative… This call to continuous renewal and transformation kindles new fire in our quest for meaningful and respectful intercultural living and intercultural mission, and prompts a serious examination of our ways and means of achieving our mission goals” (see In Word and Deed, # 29).
For us SVD, Interculturality is not and should not to be regarded as the simple act of putting together members of different nations and cultures, but as the occasion for enrichment and a personal maturation as well as for a better and more evangelical development of our common missionary/religious vocation.
“A distinguishing feature of our community life is that confreres from different nations live and work together. This becomes a mutually enriching experience when based on deep respect for one another’s nationality and culture” (Const. 303.1).
As SVD, our interculturality is made possible by our identity in the Church. It is not based on any national, ethnic or tribal identity. Interculturality is part of our heritage; it is an essential element of our SVD charism, distinctive feature of who we are. Our lifestyle is not guided by the norms of any culture or nation, but by our Congregation’s charism preserved in our Constitutions. Thus, I do not represent any country or any culture in the Congregation. However, I joined the SVD with a model of thought and practice as shaped by my culture, which can strengthen or limit my freedom to live my consecration. Unity in diversity is the necessary life lesson that we learn to live together in harmony as Intercultural Missionaries.
But, Intercultural living is a challenge, a big challenge. Confronting cultural differences, misunderstandings, tensions and relational difficulties can arise. Intercultural communities can become like the Babel Tower, which is the image of incommunicability: no individual or group understands the other, because each individual lives locked in himself, in the assertion of his own interests. It follows that the plan to build something together becomes impossible.
At the opposite of the Babel Tower, the event of Pentecost should inspire us in being Intercultural Missionaries. Pentecost is the miracle of unity and mutual understanding, even though every group speaks their own language, thus keeping their own identity with the differences that it entails. Pentecost is the conviction that the Lord wants to create new humanity through the integration and complementarity of the different. Pentecost stands for unity amidst diversity, for openness, renewal and enthusiasm, for a profound experience of God’s transforming love. As members of an international and intercultural congregation, this is what we are called for.
What is your attitude towards diversity? How do you deal with the one who is culturally different from you?
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