One of the things that I love most about my experience in Hong Kong is my constant exposure to a several cultures because I love to see how the various communities here create their own multicultural experience. I want to highlight one recent experience as a way to illustrate ways that American society, and the Church can approach multiculturalism.
Last month, I attended a celebration Iftar to commemorate the end of Ramadan with some members of the Indonesian community here. The event featured delicious, spicy food, a dance performance, reading from the Qu’ran, praying and of course, socializing. But here are some of the unique things:
- The diversity of nationalities. We had a couple of Americans, lots of Indonesians, a dozen or so Filipinos, Hong Kong Chinese, mainland Chinese, Taiwanese, and Germans there.
- The religions (or non religious) represented. Primarily, Christians and Muslims but also agnostic, atheists, and spiritual
- The languages (similar to the nationalities): English, Bahasa Indonesia, Tagalog, Chinese in various dialects, German and that’s only the native tongue of those present. English was the common thread, but some spoke very little and some are fluent.
In some circles, this diversity of this group would cause serious problems (will everyone understand? will the food cater to everyone?), but what continues to amaze me about these types of gatherings here is how those present still feel as though they are part of a larger community together. We celebrate our differences but also come together as a community. I see this being accomplished through humbleness and grace. If someone doesn’t understand, another person will translate. Everyone gets offered food. Everyone greets each other with hugs, kisses on the cheek, and people are genuinely excited to see you, even if they don’t know your name.
Overall, the migrant community here does not really possess a sense of self-entitlement, and its wonderful to be in a community where people “check their egos at the door.” For me, that’s a lesson for Americans and for the Church. Everything and everyone cannot cater to you personally. If you don’t understand a speech, it’s okay. Everything will be fine. (In my experience, if something important is happening, someone will tell you in a language you understand) If you don’t like the food, (as long as you’re not allergic) take a little, try new things. It will be okay. Everything will be fine.
Facilitated by social media, we get consumed by “me” and “my problems,” which really limit our ability to create community, especially with those of other cultural backgrounds. We are so concerned about “our needs” that we forget the needs of the larger community. So, I think that Americans, especially the Church, need a lot less “me” and a lot more “us.”