God loves cultural diversity

Airport chaplains show how to navigate rich terrain, explains Tim Costello

I recently had the privilege of speaking at a conference in Melbourne of airport chaplains from around the world. These dedicated men and women engage in the special mission of providing a spiritual presence to people of all faith traditions and cultural backgrounds.

Their “congregations,” in their workplaces of constant movement, are both transient and diverse.

I was deeply impressed with the airport chaplains’ determination to turn cultural and religious differences into rich opportunities for relationship. They understand, appreciate and celebrate differences. They seek places of unity amid human diversity.

We live in a strained period in our global history. The bonds of empathetic world citizenship – the openness to see value in others different from ourselves – are deeply frayed. Extremism is rife in politics, religion and nationalism, fuelled by anxiety, uncertainty and fear in a rapidly changing world.

Different religions and worldviews interact and collide. This has created new challenges as we struggle to recognise and respect the inevitable presence of “the other” in our societies.

One of our biggest challenges of being human is accepting difference. We might claim to acknowledge multi-culturalism, religious freedom, gender equality and alternative lifestyles but it’s usually more rhetoric than practice.

Despite anti-discrimination laws, there is a distinct lack of respect, a lack of tolerance for our diversity of race, creed, cultural values, political persuasions or ideology.

Understanding the mindset and the passions of someone else in the world is vital because everything is connected.

Words common to Judaism, Islam and Christianity state that God calls us by name. “You are mine,’’ God tells the prophet Isaiah.

If we look at each other with God’s eyes, we will realise we are all precious, unique and gifted. We are brothers and sisters on a journey.

We should not “water down” our own beliefs but live into them while affording others respect to do the same. We must be bridge builders.

From a faith viewpoint, God loves cultural diversity.

As Nelson Mandela said: “We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

From a faith viewpoint, God loves cultural diversity.

Multicultural and multi-faith environments present us with religious and cultural gifts. They also present us with challenges. We cannot afford to ignore the diversity in our midst. Nor the fact that the things we share are more valuable than those which divide us.

If God is Creator and Christ is Lord of the cosmos, then expect to see God’s face manifest everywhere.

Tim Costello is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Public Christianity and Executive Director of Micah Australia.

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