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MULTICULTURALISM – A GIFT AND A CHALLENGE

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MULTICULTURALISM – A GIFT AND A CHALLENGE

By Sr. Brenda Walsh, Racine Dominican

We hear much about multiculturalism in our time. The goal of multiculturalism is to build trust and appreciation among members of various ethnic groups by using the gifts and talents of all to contribute to the building of peace, justice and unity for all. Each ethnic group is encouraged to take great pride in its own culture and offer it to embellish the whole, and build a stronger community, state or nation. The increase in the minority population is happening in many places around the world and calls us to study and respond to the implications for our own lives and for our communities.

 

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES PEOPLE EXPERIENCE IN RELATING TO INDIVIDUALS OR GROUPS FROM OTHER CULTURES?

 
Some of the native populations feel discomfort in relating to other cultural groups. They have to get out of their comfort zone, listen to the values, hopes and challenges, the source of their identity and customs of people from other cultures. We can all learn from their responses and then clarify and share our own values with them. Fear of foreigners taking away their jobs is one that we often hear about.  We must recall that they are here looking for a better life for themselves and their families. We need to realize that all need a safe and secure place to bring up their families and prepare them for a viable future. Such a hope brings more people to our shores.

 

Their presence at worship may also call us to be open to other expressions of prayer and worship. What does our faith challenge us to do? It requires us to reach out in respect and welcome the strangers in our midst, share our beliefs and style of worship. In Galatians 3: 28, we hear “In Christ there is neither Jew not Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female. All are one in Christ.” We can discuss these issues in groups,  reflect on them in prayer and then come up with ways to respond.

 

Some people feel families that come and need assistance are taking away from services needed by local families who may be in a survival mode. We must realize that all deserve the means of meeting their basic needs and be able to enjoy some quality of life. We can listen to them, learn from them, and direct them to available resources.

 

ARE THERE SOME GOOD NATIONAL MODELS FOR SUCCESSFUL MULTICULTURALISM?

 

In the United States and other areas, multiculturalism is described as a “melting pot.”

This model seems to be limited. It encourages people of other cultures to blend their values into one mold and leave behind their own beliefs and customs. This reduces people’s confidence in their own value and contributions they can make to whole picture. It diminishes their hopes and dreams for a better future and what they can contribute to it.

 

Much has been shared about the Canadians and their efforts to promote multiculturalism in a positive way. Some leaders in Canada have addressed the issue of multiculturalism and have pointed out the importance of ensuring all minorities feel like they belong and have something important to contribute to society. Government encourages this idea and approach. People of different cultures are encouraged to make their contribution  by creating a mosaic of different shapes and colors, each adding to the total picture. Many feel they have a long way to go to come up with a workable solution but they have a vision for a unified nation and are working to accomplish it. Education of youth is an important aspect to enable them to have a viable future in a strange land. You also need to learn about different culture and learn to respect them, beginning in their early years.

 

WHY IS THIS ISSUE IMPORTANT TO DOMINICANS?

 

A few years ago, Fr. Matt Walsh, OP, met with a group of lay Dominicans of the Province of St. Albert the Great. He reminded the participants that the theme of the Jubilee Year, 2011 was about preaching and multiculturalism. He referred to a story in Mark 6: 34. It relates how Jesus always had compassion the crowds he was preaching to. He listened to them and welcomes them and knew what they were going through. He knew their hopes and frustrations. He calls on all of us not to preach in a vacuum but to know the audience we are preaching to. This calls for prayer and reflection and requires of us great humility and honesty, and deep compassion.

 

As we explore multiculturalism, we also need to be aware of our own prejudices and ways we look at people of other cultures. Then we will be more tolerant of people different from ourselves. This will call us to listen  to their stories and also share our own vision and values with them. We are also encouraged to speak out boldly and clearly against any mistreatment of immigrants  in our land. Gather groups to discuss these questions:

  • “What would it mean for us to welcome strangers?

  • What are the blessings we could experience in relating to them?

  • How can we build bridges to welcome strangers in our neighborhoods, schools, churches, or wherever we are?”

As we continue our journey in getting to know, understand and learn from people of other cultures, may we work and pray to build a better future for all.

 

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