With increased migration and globalisation in recent decades, there’s been growing mixing of traditionally separate cultures. And there are growing numbers of multicultural people, whose parents belong to one culture but who have been brought up in another culture. And so they develop their own new forms of culture from a mix of the two.
For instance, the “Tsinoys”, or Filipinos of Chinese descent, have emerged in the Philippines after years of Chinese migration into the country. Similarly, the “Nikkei”, or Brazilians of Japanese descent, have made their presence felt in Brazil after waves of Japanese migration into Latin America since the beginning of the 20th century. And in recent decades these kinds of trends have been increasing.
However, this mixing of cultures has its difficulties, especially for the children of migrants. They find themselves caught between their parents’ culture and the culture they’re being brought up in. For example, the children of the Chinese migrants who settled in the West or elsewhere have to try and juggle these different cultures and expectations. There is often the fear or even frustration of being misunderstood, judged or laughed at. Their parents’ values may be very different to the surrounding culture’s. Which values do they choose to live by? What is their personal identity?
But there is a community of love that could be a great place to help them explore these questions and more. As the community that has been reconciled with God and with each other (Ephesians 2,14-16), and as a world-wide family made up of every nation, tribe, language and ethnicity (Revelation 7) the church is uniquely placed to love multicultural people and help them thrive.
So the maybe the traditional view that churches and ministries should be based on ethnic lines needs be reconsidered. Perhaps ethnic-based churches aren’t the best way of representing God’s multi-ethnic Kingdom in an increasingly multi-ethnic society. Local churches and Christian workers need to reflect on how they can do this well for God’s glory. There is a place for international ministries to complement mono-ethnic approaches.
There are also exciting implications for cross-cultural mission. Once multicultural people have come to terms with their context and identity, they can be excellent bridge-builders between cultures because they’ve:
- learned to navigate the culture they’re living in without disconnecting from their parents’
- been able to assimilate into their lives whatever they regard as beneficial from each cultural context and avoid those aspects which they find unhelpful.
- found helpful ways of cultivating relationships across cultures
An Untapped Opportunity?
So multicultural Christians have the potential to be especially fruitful for God in our globalized world. But it often seems as though this potential hasn’t been fully understood. So how could they be trained and supported to influence the places they come from, the places where God will still take them, and the communities they currently live in?
Hans Walter Ritter
OMF International Director for Europe and Africa
Diaspora Steering Group
Will you pray?
- Praise God for the unique contributions of people from different backgrounds in ministry.
- Pray for ways of making the most of the experiences of multicultural people to build bridges in ministry.