Although religious congregations had been living in multicultural communities for centuries, intercultural living has only recently been given serious thought and the attention it deserves. Partly, it may be because we, the religious, had always accepted living in multicultural communities as a given in religious life and therefore isn’t something that needed further consideration. Mainly, however, it is because intercultural living challenges our values and demands major changes in our behaviors.
In this reflection, I would like to dwell on the drive to learn, an essential component of living in a multicultural reality. People’s learning preferences are as diverse as their personalities. What is essential is not so much the how but the desire and commitment to learn. By being open and committed to learning, we become more understanding, open, and accepting of, attitudes that are important in cultivating intercultural living.
There are many things to learn and one among these is that there is no such thing as inferior and dominant culture even if many among us continue to box and rank people according to cultural identity. Diversity should help us come to terms to the reality that the world is made richer in more ways than one by the coming together of people from various backgrounds. Insisting on uniformity and conformity is an insult to the complexity of human life and God’s grandeur. All culture and people are in one way or the other both givers and receivers at the same time.
This brings us to the idea of the sacredness of each culture. Each one is sacred because each culture is formed in a particular context, environment, and historical background to form its own worldview. Cultures are created in a social reality that is distinctly unique from all others. There is no point in comparing; they only deserve the respect that is due them.
Moreover, there are more to culture than economic development. Culture is far more complex and encompassing than economy. It is about a people and life itself and all its intricacies. In the end, what matters most is how one’s culture brings us closer to each other, leads us to celebrate our diversities, and drives us to be better human beings to one another and to the world.
All these things will only bring change, a new perspective, and conversion in one’s life if s/he is ready to learn. Otherwise, embracing what is new, celebrating diversities, and conversion will remain a mere ideal that’s easy to proclaim but difficult to embody.