Pontifical Council for the Pastoral
Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

Meeting of Cultures and its impact on Faith and Values of Younger Generation

 

Opinions and Experiences 

 

Ms Shwetha Joyce Rasquinha

  Student delegate for India

 

 

It is a great pleasure for me to be able to exchange ideas with you concerning so vast subject and one so very much of the moment. I come from India a land of spirituality, philosophy, cradle of religions, and multicultures. Here is a true example. A Marathi Hindu woman as a president, a Muslim as a vice president, a sikh Prime minister from a political party lead by Roman catholic Lady, whose husband was a son of kashmiri pundith. A dalit woman as a speaker of Loksabha. This is a true cross section of our beloved land!!

Youth today are growing up in a wide range educational, family, faith experiences and value systems which are definitely different from what it used to be. Globalization, avenues for education and employment, techno culture have encouraged the development of multi youth culture and facilitated the spread of varied cultural practices. We are fully aware of the multicultural world into which we are fast moving. Culture must be identified as a dynamic entity and not as static any more. New cultures emerge constantly, existing ones take new forms, some are preserved forcefully and some even die. Culture stands in relation to religion. In all known historical cultures, religion has been a essential element.

Religion plays a vital role either as a foundation of ethical values or atleast as an influential backing for them. The values that determine human behaviours are most often either explicitly presented by religious doctrines or strongly advocated by them. When Christians think of ethics, we generally refer to respect for the ten  commandments.

In India I see migration at two levels; international and internal wherein internal migration is at the larger level. The factors encouraging migration are, inadequate educational infrastructure, recognition of some places as educational hubs, cheaper education etc, Countries, regions, peoples and communities are becoming more and more intertwined and interdependent. We can no longer cut ourselves off.  If we focus on the consequences of multiculturalism we see both positive and negative effects. I consider as a positive fact that Cultural exchange due to migration of students contributes to mutual understanding between societies and people. Culture needs dialogue and dialogue needs culture. Understanding other cultures can prevent prejudice and hate. Cultural exchange also enriches our own lives by inspiring new forms of artistic expression and providing fresh insights that broaden our horizons. Interaction of different faiths has normally generated respect for each other and even the feeling that to some extent we pursue the same goals. This is in sharp contrast to the prejudices and intolerance some of them used to maintain while they remained isolated. More the cultural exchange many have come to appreciate the students of other religion.

When the cultures meet ethnic identity and cultural heritage are considered as an asset. Talents of the different communities in this globalized world are complimentary. A team of students from different cultures can make impossible things possible.

Inter cultural community living calls for give and take attitude, openness for self correction, eagerness to learn from each other and contribute without pretensions. It calls for the understanding of mental make up of other people. It is true among some students and therefore today meeting of cultures is a blessing. The foundation of lasting peace will emerge from such youthful and hopeful encounters. We need to build more bridges than walls. I will not be wrong if I say studying, living and working with the students of different cultures   has built bridges.

There is increased spirituality among young people in general and migrant students in particular, whether they affiliate with the particular religion or not, including Christianity. They are more interested in spirituality and it is partly a response to the fragmentation, insecurity felt due to migration, ethnic differences,  globalization, widening gaps between rich and poor students etc.

Migration of students and Meeting of cultures also entails negative impact.  As young students migrate overseas for education and employment many end up as churchless Christians. Church attendance is often seen rather than a mere participant of spiritual activities. When the migrant students are not organized by the church, when they are not in touch with the church personnel’s and become one with techno culture, and also because of academic demands, faith becomes more of a private matter. For me faith is to trust and believe. It can be religious faith and faith in each other. Therefore faith is a relationship too. This relationship it self is questioned today due to the rat race of life. Faith hence has become a very superficial affair. Depth dimension is lost. We talk a lot, there is no depth. We spend lot of time on internet but there is no reflection, we hear and read   but there is no internalizing of the matter. Lack of depth has affected our faith.

Level of tolerance among the younger generation no matter with the migrants or with the youth of host countries is deteriorating. When the migrant students live outside the family there is reduction in patriarchal power and control over younger generation. Child is the king of the family. Everything that is asked or demanded is given because parents feel their young children should be provided with everything as they are away from the families. All that is done or provided by the parents is up to or above the expectations of their children. Therefore the youth today can not accept something that happens below their expectations and that has resulted in intolerance, running away from home, suicides etc.

Migrant students are always at the receiving end in the host country or state. The dominant groups of the host countries often make an attempt to insist their faith on others. This fundamentalism has grown in various forms especially in the place that I hail from. I often witness Religious intolerance, intolerance of culture, intolerance of freedom etc.  Tensions have arised between youth and adult communities that have not learned to reconcile their differences.  Moral policing, violence, destruction is at rise today.

Value for autonomy has become the need of the younger generation today. We have greater autonomy than previous generations of youth.  Exposure to modern world has closed the minds of youth to communicate with and to be guided by elders who built the families and communities based on values. When the students live outside their families, Problems related to relationship of the opposite sex, pregnancy outside marriage, abortions, intake of drugs and other substances are often seen. Am  sure that the young partners aborting a foetus will lose moral high ground to condemn violence. A drug addict who violates the sanctity of his mind and body becomes insensitive to the suffering souls around him.

Paradigm shift has taken place in our youth’s view of life. Education demands quality, competition with oneself and with others and poor integration with the hosting countries   has often resulted in students getting  less and less involved in social causes. They are becoming a self centered and silent generation hooked on to success in career and life. On the face of it may appear to be a positive development but I suspect it will make us h easy prey to consumer values a market oriented life Having little space for social concerns  which will corrode our Christian perspectives on faith and morals. Its matter of prime concern that we should remain rooted in our Christian identity and culture, because Christian life is incomplete unless we open our hands to the poor and needy.

Formation of sects and new religious movements is a reaction against secularized culture and consequences of social and cultural upheavals which have uprooted traditional religion. In many cases international students are psychologically wounded or suffer rejection or total isolation in the anonymity.  They readily accept a spiritual vision which restores lost harmony,  physical and spiritual healing and even a feeling of security. Some sects are Christian in appearance and some are hostile to Christ and church. Many of our contemporaries can communicate easily in such groups and experience a feeling of belonging.

 Moral relativism has steadily been accepted as primary moral philosophy of modern society. Though we are living in a multicultural society, the ethical standards, morality and positions of right or wrong are culturally based, therefore subject to persons individual choice. A thinking that “we can decide what is right for ourselves. You decide what is right for you, and I will decide what is right for me” according to moral relativism there is no goodness or badness in the abstract: but it is with in a specified context. An act may thus be good for one person but bad for another, or good in one cultural setting but bad in another.

In a multi cultural universities minority student communities often feel marginalized, discriminated and isolated. Very often youth energy is utilized to ventilate this discontent in a violent manner. Building harmony in such a situation is  no easy  task, but the pursuit of peace and collaboration is no cake walk either.

Excessive faith in science and technology as a solution to all human problems is a malaise of our age. There are many people who believe in eternal life are just round the corner. Another few years perhaps, science offers a triumph over death. Part by part  the whole body can one day be refreshed. Yet there is no guarantee that this everlasting life may be peaceful or pleasant without the practice of faith and values. Meeting of cultures due to globalization, modernization, communication, social networking shouldn’t be a challenge to the practice of faith and just values. Youth of today benefit from an increase in contacts between the cultures but they also suffer from pressures of a powerful trends. Great sensitivity from the religious and laity superiors can work wonders in this multi cultural era. Thank you.