I took part last May in a seminar organised by SEDOS (Centre of Documentation and Study) in Rome. We were 120 participants made up of priests, religious men and women from all five continents. Four Missionaries of Africa participated in the seminar: Denis Pam from Rwanda, Filiyanus Ekka from India, Frank Rossmann from Germany, and Boris Yabre from Mozambique. Two Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa were as well among us.
The world is in constant pain, torn by divisions, violence, wars and mutual rejection, cultural and religious tensions. This has brought about the theme of the seminar: Interculturality: Living and Mission.
Inspired and helped by some erudite guess speakers from Italy, Japan, Cameroon, India, United States and Peru, we have come to better understand that interculturality, rather than an issue, is an opportunity. It is a golden chance to go beyond oneself in order to learn, share, love and grow.
We need to move away from our egocentrism tendencies and learn to appreciate “cultural relativism”. Thus, it should be admitted that no culture is superior or inferior to another. “Rather, we could say that every culture is unique and none of them can be identified with another one. Every identity presupposes diversity which remains the starting point for intercultural dialogue and communication between cultures.” Indeed, every culture is a gift from God not only to a specific group but to be cherished by the whole humanity. Each culture is unique and should not be undermined. Put together, cultures in their diversities make up a common richness to be enjoyed by the whole world.
Interculturality is an evangelical necessity whereby conversion of the heart, the mind and the will are needed as experience shows how conflictual can be our intercultural religious communities. That implies widening continuously our horizons and making steps toward the other with the unique intention of knowing and giving a space that is due to that person.
Personality and interculturality are to be reconciled and balanced in the practice of community living. We may belong to the same cultural background and yet we have different personalities. The danger appears when someone judges an entire culture from one’s subjective experience from an individual belonging to this particular culture.
The SEDOS seminar was excellent. It was a moment to experience our unity within the diversity inside the Church and in the world. The leaders of our little missionary Society thought well of sending four of us to take part in it. We are happy and grateful. We shall try our best to put into practice what our ears have heard.
Someone once sang, “different colours, one people”. I want to add, “different cultures, one people”.
Boris Yabre, M.Afr, Mozambique