International Ministries

Interculturality...What?

June 25, 2009 Journal
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While praying at a prayer meeting in behalf of a youth camp we will have in Puerto Rico (the group “Hermánate con Chiapas” (Sistering with Chiapas) are bringing nine Mayan leaders from Chiapas for this camp); I realized how little we know about interculturality. So, I decided to share with you a short story. Hope you like it!

"A boy and his teacher" (original in Spanish by Yolanda jb in Educarueca)

Once upon a time, there was a little boy who went to school. He was small and the school was very big. Yet, he discovered he could enter that big door on the front to reach his very own classroom.

One day his teacher said: “Today we will draw” So, the little boy thought about how much he liked to draw the things surrounding his own little village – armadillos, chickens, clouds, and cats. So, he took out his colored pencils and start drawing.

But the teacher said: “Wait! It is not the time to start yet,” and she waited until all were ready. So the little boy waited. Then she said: “Now, we will draw flowers.” “Good” thought the little boy, “I like flowers,” and started drawing beautiful flowers, flowers with many colors and different forms. “Wait!” Said the teacher, “I will show you how to draw.” Then she drew a red flower with a green stem. The little boy looked the teacher’s flower and he liked the ones he did best; yet he said nothing and started drawing a red flower with a green stem.

Another day, the teacher said: “Today we will mold something with clay!” “Great” said the little boy for he knew how to do serpents, rats, and trees, and started shaping his ball of clay. “Wait” the teacher said. “It is not yet the time to start,” so he waited until told to start. “Now” the teacher said, “we will do a plate.” “Yes!” the little boy thought, “I like to do plates” and started doing plates of different shapes and sizes. But the teacher said: “Wait, I will show how to do plates” And she did a bowl. “Here, now you can start.” The little boy looked the teacher’s bowl and he liked the ones he did best; yet he said nothing and did just one bowl, the same as the teacher’s.

Soon the little boy learned to wait and to look, to wait and to do the same things that his teacher did. Soon he quit doing the things coming from his own mind and heart.

One day, the little boy moved to a different town and went to a different school. And one day his teacher said: “Today we will draw” “Good,” said the little boy and waited until the teacher told him what to do.

But the teacher said nothing. She was just walking up and down the room. When she reached the boy, she asked: “Don’t you want to start your drawing?” “Yes” he said, “what should I do?”   “I won’t know until you do it” said the teacher. “How should I do it?” asked the boy. “As you wish” said the teacher. “Any color?” asked the boy. “Any color” said the teacher. “If we all do the same drawing and we use the same colors, how will I know which is which and who did it?” “I don’t know,” answered the little boy and he started drawing a red flower with a green stem.

This story is about homogeneity and the destruction of the cultural diversity we have in the world. Interculturality is hard to define and yet is much clear to grasp when we see it. As teachers of the Intercultural Mayan Seminary at Chiapas, Mexico, we strive to become intercultural by including the wisdom, knowledge and ways of our Mayan and Mexican students, pastors and companions in everything we do. We still have much to learn.

Interculturality is not just to be able to visit a different land or engage different people. This is a first step. But, when you get to understand and value the differentness of other peoples as a gift from God while being open to learn from them and share their understanding of reality, then we are at the step of interculturality. Sometimes, because of our historical, social and economic opportunities we see others as lesser with nothing to give back to us. We are much open to give but we are much closed to the idea of receive.

However, evangelization is communication and true communication is dual - we give and we receive – we bless as much as we are blessed – we share good news of salvation as much as we are transformed by those who receive the message. Thus we share a common ground of experience rooted in Jesus. At the base of this exchange of gifts is reciprocity and when done with open heart it becomes a basic value of the kingdom of God, an opportunity to growth, to see the world and God thru other eyes and the chance to gain friends. Cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue might well be the way to peace. 

So, we look forward to our great idea of an intercultural youth camp in Puerto Rico, an exchange of cultures, an exchange of religious experiences, and exchange of love!  

Blessings! (This is part 1 of my ruminations! Details of the youth camp will come in the following newsletters