Diversity ... Multicultural ... What Does It Mean?

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The word "multicultural" is becoming very popular, and maybe to the point that is losing the real meaning. It seems that's becoming a cool word to say. When we use that word in our context, I wonder what we mean by that. Does it mean to have POC coming to the churches? Does it mean to have a friendly smile to people of different ethnic background? Does it mean to have song in two languages? Does it mean to eat different meals once in a while? Does it mean to have one or two POC working in offices to show how diverse we are? What does it really mean to us?

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Interesting question. To me (a Canadian living in Toronto, one of the world's most multicultural cities), multiculturalism ranges from a tolerance of diversity to the full promotion and celebration of multiculturalism. I believe that, in the context of the Church, we ought to be leaning more to the full celebration of multiculturalism end of the spectrum.

But what does it mean in practice to celebrate multiculturalism within the Church? I think that it must go far beyond have a few token minorities around. While respecting our roots, we should be moving forward to creating a welcoming environment for people of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. We should be careful that celebrating our Dutchness, for example, does not make others feel excluded and out of place.

My church in Toronto is quite diverse. We do sing songs from various countries (and the music director is quite adamant that we sing them properly, with a view to reflecting the traditional music of the countries of origin of the songs). Sometimes, on holidays, we have people bring greetings in various languages. Still, I think we are still pretty WASPy.

A true celebration of our diverse ethnic roots can likely only occur when we move beyond our own self-absorption to recognize that there are other, interesting people out there. We have to be willing to listen and not just talk. We have to get over our own insecurities and realize that sometimes eating food other than meat and potatoes is a refreshing change.

From my perspective, the fact that we are one in Christ notwithstanding our cultural, ethnic, racial and other differences is beautiful and powerful. We have never met, yet we have the same Saviour and are united in Christ. We share this bond with Christians around the world. I have more in common with you and Christians in China, Saudi Arabia, and Russia that I have in common with my colleagues at work. That's powerful. To discover how Christ has made himself known in Christians around the world is interesting, exciting, and, well, FUN.

Sometimes I think that the urban parts of heaven will be a little bit like Toronto: on any given day, you can walk down the street and hear three or four different languages being spoken. I buy groceries from an Indian lady, fruits and vegetables from a Chinese family, have my hair cut by an Iranian lady, and work with a South African ex-pat. I can eat Greek food for lunch and Ethiopian for dinner, which I enjoy with my friends who hail from Brazil, Singapore, Uganda, the US, Finland, Scotland, and Switzerland. Seriously. For me, this is what multiculturalism is about.