The Beauty of Diversity

A reflection by Sr Maria, fcJ, from the Manila community,
first appeared in the Weaving One Heart: Contemporary FCJ Voices blog

As a social work student, I have been doing my fieldwork in an agency which helps to rescue trafficked women and men from bars. The agency does transformative work with these women and men, helping to restore their dignity and hope through providing college education, psycho-social support, and other basic needs. This agency is a Christian organization and actively networks with many other Christian Churches.

Last week, I was so blessed to volunteer in a big event organized by the agency.  Members of many Christian Churches were invited to join. The event advocated a stop to sex trafficking through various activities, including praise and worship sessions. Several courageous women shared their stories about how they were transformed through journeying with the agency. Their stories inspired the crowd.

What struck me the most was the way the different Christian Churches invited by the agency came together, even though their ways of praying were so different from each other. During the event, everyone worshiped and praised God in the same place and with the same purpose. At first, I was shocked to see so many ways of praying and worshiping God which were different from my own. Some people were lying on the floor, crying, some were shouting with joy and dancing, some just moved their bodies slowly and waved their hands in the air. The music was loud and while I was watching them I couldn’t understand how they were connecting with God. My mind was full of confusion.

However, I began to realize that quickly judging these new things I saw based on my own expectations was stopping me from really seeing and valuing their difference. While the unfamiliarity of the scene made me experience confusion, once I caught my own judgmental thoughts, I realized that the experience of difference was actually inviting me go deeper into myself to understand my own reactions. Only then could I begin to accept and value the other.

This incident really challenged me not to judge, and to accept people who come from contexts that are really different from my own. I thank God for placing me there and showing me the beauty of diversity, which goes beyond what the eye can see. This Lent is inviting me to accept other people who are really different from me. It requires a deep listening both to myself and to the other.