Embracing Diversity: Living in a Multicultural Society as a Missionary

Fr. Elbert Balbastro, SSC

Being a missionary gives me the chance to live in a multicultural society where unity is achievable despite our differences in language, customs, culture, and viewpoints. Living here in Pakistan hais been a profoundly memorable experience that has left a big impact in my life.

One recent experience that broadened my perspective on living a diversified life happened just last month. You see, at the end of every academic year in our Catholic School in Badin, we always treat the students and teachers to a well-deserved picnic. This year, the teachers and students of Classes 9 and 10 went to Keenjhar Lake and Shah Jahan Masjid, both located in the Thatta region. Christian, Hindu, and Muslim teachers and students were on the same bus. Parkari, Punjabi, and Sindi castes were all together in one bus. The trip was fantastic, and I got to hear our teachers’ and students’ tales firsthand. The entire vacation was incredibly enjoyable and we had a terrific time. I realized that despite our many differences, we could still enjoy each other’s company and simply learn from each other. For instance, I discussed the topic of fasting with my Muslim student. When I asked one of my Hindu students about fasting, he gave me his perspective on how they observe fasting in their faith. It was indeed an eye-opener for me as I had always assumed that only Muslims and Christians practice fasting. 

On that trip, it dawned on me that openness, solidarity, and desire to love and connect are the things that tie us all together. Without the cooperation of everyone, we would not have been able to complete that trip successfully and meaningfully. 

I compare that significant journey we had to a Sindh Ajrak. For the Sindhis living in the province of Sindh, this Ajrak represents their sense of self. We resemble the intricacies emblazoned on this fabric. There are curved lines, straight lines, and circular details. Despite their variations in hue and form, each element has a special role and meaning in the Sindhi Ajrak. Together, they create a stunning tapestry. We have a lot in common with this Ajrak. Despite the differences in language, culture, and religion, our united efforts blended so well that our differences became less noticeable. Additionally, each of us holds importance to the others. 

In this broken world where wars and divisions arise from differences in culture, religion, and caste, it is a call for everyone to embrace diversity and challenge our biases and assumptions. We want to live in a peaceful world but we need to understand the diversity of the world that we live in. I hope the world is like the bus we rode in where, though we are different from each other, still, we enjoyed each other’s company by seeking our common ground and chooing dialogue over argument. With this in mind, I believe that it is always good to commit on propagating the spirit of inclusion and equality rather than exclusion and division. 

In the end, the essence of humanity is to create a better world where the willingness to learn, finding common ground, and making shared efforts to bridge division are important tools as we embark on the journey to oneness and unity. 

“Diversity and inclusion are about giving value to every human being, no matter our differences.”                              – Anonymous