Solidary hospitality as the foundation of our intercultural communities

Solidary hospitality as the foundation of our intercultural communities

Inspired by a resolution of the last chapter, the workshop on living in intercultural communities as an apostolic witness brought together 18 confreres, including the animators Freddy Kyombo, Andreas Göpfert and the secretary Jean-Paul Guibila, from 1 to 8 September 2019 at the Generalate.

The overall objective of this gathering was to define an intercultural spirituality with the objective of helping our M.Afr. communities to improve their community witness. It is at this level that solidary hospitality appears to be the notion that best defines the foundation of our intercultural communities.

Thanks to the progressive construction of our international communities, inspired from its foundation by the words of Cardinal Lavigerie, who insisted on “esprit de corps” to witness to Christ and to the values of the Kingdom of God, we are able to periodically evaluate our identity. More than ever, we are taking into account our cultural diversity, which is perceived not as a threat, but rather as a source of wealth. Our deep desire is to witness our unity in diversity.

This poses a serious challenge. Indeed, preserving unity in plurality requires a constant effort. This spirit of unity refers to an awareness of our different ways of thinking or making decisions together. A double movement oscillating between belonging to a group and the subjective feeling of uniqueness, this otherness therefore, allows the acceptance of mutual dependence. Our identity is built on the basis of our diversity.

Thus, our identity must remain plural. Otherwise, there is a risk of rejection of the other to the detriment of community life, a danger of cultural assimilation leading to forms of alienation and a danger of the development of conflict zones. On the other hand, identity consolidation is achieved in a climate of dialogue.

Risks that threaten the development of community identity

An intoxication of the relational climate is increasing with an exaggeration of ethnic differences and their manipulation and instrumentalization. A purification of perceptions is therefore necessary with the development of a critical sense. This will prevent violence.

The identity of the person or group is a multiple composition supported by a mental openness. It is in this context that plurality is the source of identity development that connects individuals and peoples alike through the example of a bridge. In everything, we must avoid the single thought.

Another risk or danger is the spread of discriminatory stereotypes or labels. As persons consecrated to the Kingdom of God, we are particularly chosen to fight against this. The preferred approach is a spirituality of fraternal communion that respects differences. To be a disciple of Christ is to affirm that we are all complementary to each other.

A strong individual and collective identity is both demanding and fully compatible with a spirituality of communion. Indeed, it is based on the stated desire to acquire a new vision of oneself based on the concept of interculturality. It is in this sense that interculturality is perceived by some people or groups as a great provocation.

Difficulties related to constant change

Stereotypes and prejudices are based on cultural codes linked to the relationship that man has established with nature, time, space, disease and death, power.

The variety of cultural behaviours is almost infinite. Nowadays, we must add the presence of digital culture, which poses new challenges.

There is a significant difference between new generations and seniors. The latter have more difficulty keeping up with the pace of digital innovations.

Towards an intercultural spirituality

How can we integrate the spirituality of interculturality into our daily lives?

    1. We must be ready to change our way of looking at and perceiving things.
      1. Developing a constructive approach.
      2. By considering the other person or group as a source of complementarity.
      3. By appreciating the other as a gift to me, not a threat.
      4. In this way, an intercultural community becomes a gift for all.
    2. We must value the diversity that is intended by God.
      1. Following the example of Moses who must take off his shoes to enter the sacred place of the meeting, we too take off our prejudices to prioritize the spirituality of interculturality.
      2. We are all children of the same creator.
      3. Diversity is a gift from God.
      4. Diversity is generated by the Spirit of God.
    3. We must seek to reach or tend towards the spirituality of communion.
      1. To play its role well, the Church should above all be the home or a school of communion.
      2. The best way to do this is to look through the heart, pay attention to the other, see the positive in the other (person or group) and share the burdens.
    4. We must build fraternity (reference: 1 John 4:20).
      1. By expanding our “circle of brotherhood”.
      2. By becoming PLACES OF SOLIDARY HOSPITALITY by promoting true dialogue and the progressive construction of an intercultural spirituality in the welcoming of the other.

Conclusion

We have been focusing a lot on hospitality since our foundation. Solidarity is also part of our way of living in community. There is nothing new about this. On the other hand, by more intimately combining these two dimensions, we are able to incorporate interculturality into our communities. It is then that interculturality is defined as a spirituality, that is, a place of expression of the Spirit, a gift of God.

A reflection of Serge St-Arneault, M.Afr.
Participant in the Workshop

First published in French on his personal blog

Translation: Philippe Docq

Participants in the workshop “Living in intercultural community as an apostolic witness today”, Rome, 1-8 September 2019.

1: Freddy Kyombo. 2: Paul Makambi Kitha. 3: Andreas Göpfert. 4: Michael Mpindo. 5: Ignatius Anipu. 6: Georges Jacques. 7: Robert Ubemu. 8: Armand Galay. 9: Daniel Nana. 10:  Paul Johnston. 11: Benjamin Jigeesh. 12: Hans Joachim Lohre. 13: Serge St-Arneault. 14: Serge Boroto. 15: Emmanuel Noufé. 16: Robbin Simbeye. 17: Bonaventure Bwanakweri. 18: Alex Manda.

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