Intercultural On-going conversion

Intercultural On-going conversion

  • Autore: Rante Taruk Marselinus sx
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  • Lingua: English

On Going Conversion: the Challenge of Intercultural Living

The increasing globalization in our society creates more possibility of meeting, encountering and even living with other people from different cultural backgrounds, ethnicity and nations. Such social changing requires that all religious Institutions and candidates for religious life, in particular, be prepared to encounter the diversity and plurality that characterize our today social context. The topic of interculturality has become more relevant and has gained more importance in the last decades. This leads us to recognize the value of multicultural communities in every religious institute, in particular our beloved Congregation.

Living well interculturality is not a spontaneous phenomenon. It is an intentional and explicitly faith-based undertaking. Faith must be lived in a cultural context. Being an intentional living, it takes learning; it needs tools and implies training. Certainly, congregation or institute is going well with its multiculturality when its members are committed to each other, value the cultures present in it, consider all the members as very important and treat them in the same plane. We may agree to say that living well the challenge of interculturality in our congregation signifies our ability to be always in state of conversion. It is a call for an ongoing conversion. Here I would like to articulate some reflections of being in state of ongoing conversion:

Call for rethinking the way we think

Intercultural living is a faith and lifelong process of conversion emerging as a requirement of members in any international religious communities. “A radical conversion in thinking is required in order to become missionary, and this holds true both for individuals and entire communities. This entails “setting out from our isolated minds and throwing ourselves with courage and confidence into the mission of the entire Church.”[1]

Conversion in the context intercultural living signifies a transformation of our mindset. “In the encounter between confreres of different nationalities, the Xaverian sees an opportunity of grace and a source of mutual enrichment. Standing before the sacredness of the other, he “removes his sandals” and is open to the other in an attitude of respect and humility, in order to welcome him as a gift. With a positive disposition, he lives in unity with the others in order to embody in his daily life the local culture of the country that has welcomed him. Together with his brothers, he looks in the same direction pointed out by Christ: towards the coming of the Kingdom of love”.[2] As we make an effort to embrace the challenge of intercultural living, we do need to shift our way thinking, understanding the others. The categories of thinking is no longer based on my cultural perspective, my tradition, my ethnic prejudice but each person needs to feel that there no me/us and them, but a community seeking to identity itself inclusively as we. The intercultural community is the place where we learn and experience the patient’s daily passage form ‘I’ to ‘we’, from my commitment to the commitment given to the community, from searching for my things to the search for Christ.

Call to Build Home for all Together

The family spirit is one of the distinctive mark of our Xaverian spirituality that needs to be cultivated and nourished at all time and at all cost. By virtue of profession, we belong to a religious family, which is diverse from our natural family. Blood relation no longer determines the family tie but rather by the missionary vocation, dream and spirit of the founder. Thus, we are called to build something in which all can live harmoniously, to which each lay equal claim, and for which everyone assumes responsibility.

Building the Community as a home for everybody marked by a healthy intercultural living depends on the level of commitment and support generated by every member of the community. Individuals vary in their adaptability and learning-levels, but each one generates positive or negative energy, and the quality of intercultural living depends significantly on the aggregate of positive energy generated by the whole group.[3]

A true intercultural community is not made without effort and must be built slowly; it cannot happen automatically. In building such community, goodwill is simply not enough; there must be a mechanism in place to facilitate community building, from faith sharing to strategic planning and from sharing of leisure pursuits to socializing. Anthony Gittins points out that two things are necessary and need careful attention. The first thing according to him, is the conviction that any and every culture is not above reproach and appropriate criticism, and no culture models the Gospel imperatives and the call to discipleship is totally adequate, much less in a perfect way. Therefore, every culture and its constitutive members must first bend the knee before revelation of Jesus Christ, and every Christian disciple must become countercultural at some points. Second, in order for people of different cultures to live harmoniously together, each one must make a concerted effort to better understand what makes other people tick both culturally and spiritually; to develop mutual trust and the willingness to explore together in faith.[4]

Living interculturality is a call essentially based on faith undertaking; we are not colleagues in a multinational corporation but members of one family attempting to live together as mutually indebted disciples. We are driven by corporate fidelity to God’s mission through the community in which we live. At an individual level, intercultural living is demanded as constitutive of our life commitment, as members of international communities, to our ongoing conversation or transformation in a globalized and multicultural world.[5]

Process of developing an Intercultural Sensitivity

Adapting the work of Milton J. Bennett, who produced a developmental model of intercultural sensitivity,[6] I would like to articulate this conversion as a process of developing an intercultural sensitivity by moving from ethnocentrism to ethnorelativism.

Bennett’s model tracks a six stages movement or progression from ethnocentrism to what he calls ethnorelativism: denial, defense, minimization, acceptance, adaptation, integration. The first three stages exemplify various degrees of ethnocentrism, while the stage four through six indicate a person who is slowly moving beyond ethnocentrism and increasingly toward ethnorelativism.[7] In the ethnocentric orientation, one’s own culture is seen as the only reality. Ethnocentric oriented person is simply defined as a person who assumes that the worldwide of his own culture is central to all reality. As such, ethnocentrism parallels to egocentrism wherein an individual assumes that his existence is necessary central to the reality perceived by all others. 

As the person is moving towards more sensitive intercultural orientation or ethnorelative orientation, reality is not limited to any one culture, and cultural differences are understood in relation to each other; when the person is able to shift his perspective and adapt his behaviour to a given cultural context. There is no absolute standard of rightness or goodness that can be applied to cultural behavior. Cultural difference is neither good nor bad, it is just different. Stages of ethnorelativism begin with the acceptance of cultural difference as inevitable and enjoyable, through adaptation to cultural differences with intercultural communication skills, to the final stage of integration in which ethnorelativism may be synthesized into a coherent and workable new identity.[8]

Way of concluding

Intercultural living is an intentional and explicitly faith-based undertaking. It is therefore radically different from simply being a member of an international community and living under the same roof as others, including people of diverse culture. The intercultural living itself should not be seen primarily as a problem. It would be far preferable for us to identify it as a challenge to be faced and dealt with appropriately. Nor we look at it as someone else’s challenge or problem; but it is rather a challenge that everyone must face.

«Let each one carefully protect the bonds of this sacred unity and avoid anything that could weaken it. Everyone must suppress his own egoism, criticism, contrariness, ostentation and desire for the limelight. Everything should be generously offered on the altar of fraternal harmony, which makes the communal life of any institution strong and prosperous»

(St. Guido M. Conforti, Testament Letter ,9)

«The interculturality of our communities
is a providential gift from God and a source of personal growth
and enrichment of our Xaverian Family.
Therefore, we cultivate it because it trains us in communion,
welcome, dialogue, listening, communication
and sharing of life, faith and human and material resources»
(XVI General Chapter, 65) 
Rante Taruk Marselinus, sx

[1] XVI General Chapter, no.43.

[2] XV General Chapter  no.29

[3] Cfr. Anthony J. Gittins, Living Mission Interculturally, Collegeville, Minnesota, Liturgical Press, 201530.

[4] Cfr. Anthony J. Gittins, Living Mission Interculturally, 95-96.

[5] Cfr. Anthony J. Gittins, Living Mission Interculturally, 162.

[6] Cfr. Milton J. Bennett, «A Developmental Approach to Training for Intercultural Sensitivity» in International Journal of Intercultural Relations, vol. 10 (1986), 179-196; Janet M. Bennett, «Transformative Training: Designing Programs for Culture Learning».in Contemporary Leadership and Intercultural Competence: Exploring the Cross-Cultural Dynamics Within Organizations edited by Michael A. Moodian, California, SAGE Publications, Inc, 2009, 95-110.

[7] Cfr. Anthony J. Gittins, Living Mission Interculturally, 100.

[8] Cf. Milton J. Bennett, “Towards Ethnorelativism: a Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity”, in R. Michael Paige, Education for the Intercultural Experience, Yarmouth, Maine, Intercultural Press, INC., 1993, 46-47.


Monday, 17 July 2017
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