Why India? Why not.
Why Young Life? Why not.
Why Campus Outreach? Why not.
Why are you the way you are? I say why not be.
My two months abroad in India are rapidly disappearing before my eyes. Thursday is my last full day. Thinking about going home, hugging my brother, drinking syllabub, decorating our Christmas tree, and seeing my grandparents are all things that make me so ready. But so much of me wants to stay. Maybe forever. I will never get tired of the colorful hubbub, constant festivals and celebrations, and adorable brown eyed babies to stare at. Sometimes I feel like my life here is a dream and if I wake up, it will all be gone. One of my absolute favorite things about this country is the idea of peace and harmony. People respect each other here, different cultures, languages, and religions don’t affect daily life from happening. It is like God decided to put all of the world’s religions and the universe’s biggest paint set into a blender and out poured India. It is a rainbow of spirituality to say the least and I love it.
If India, a country stricken with extreme poverty and depletion of resources, can manage to harbor a community of mutual respect and religious toleration, why can’t the United States? Why was the most common question I received before I left “Why India?” and the second most popular comment “Be careful. Did you hear about [insert religious extremist circumstance here]?” Yes, India has more Muslims than Pakistan. Yes, India has had instances of extreme religious intolerance. So what. You know what else India has? India has the most welcoming, accepting, peaceful, helpful, truthful, and respectful people I have ever met. Organizations like NGO schools do everything they can just to pay their teachers while feeding us coffee, cookies and expensive clean water. People we have never met open up their homes and families to us. A panel of a Hindu professor, a Muslim professor, and a Chaplin taught us of the respect different religions have for each other. They finished each other’s sentences. Hindus pay respect at Sikh temples and listen to Sufi music. While I am getting treated like a princess, people at home are still concerned about safety due to proximity of religious populations. Yes, religious toleration is definitely something I’ll miss.
I don’t think intolerance exists only on a broad level, either. It makes me sad to say it, but Furman even has intolerance within mutual faiths. Why is this a problem for us? We are all worshipping one God and we are all striving to represent him well by our organizations. The competition between groups is disgusting to me. It was a problem before I came to India, it’s just more on my mind now. I desire to live in a community of believers that support each other. I desire for that community to be larger than my close group of friends, but all believers. I desire for Furman students who attend the same church to recognize each other on campus instead of mentally segregating each other into different Christian campus organizations. We hurt each other by asking why on earth we would want to be part of a certain religious organizations. What we are missing is that by doing this, we are just prolonging the inevitable of a lost campus. Is that what we really want?
If staying in India meant no one asking me why I am a Young Life leader or why I am involved in Campus Outreach, I just might do it. We are too concerned with the differences between non-Christian religions than we are our own to even see the problem that lies right in front of us. This is my public statement acknowledging I will do everything I can to be a part of this acceptance and I hope if you are reading, you will join me. Being a Christian to me isn’t about forcing my beliefs on others or claiming to be better, but about love, acceptance and an understanding of those around you. I want to share what I know while still respecting those that might not agree. Hopefully if that is the path I take, it would be applied to both Christians and non Christians alike. Furman, the US, and even my own friends and family could learn a lot from this country. I know I already have and I hope it has changed me forever.
“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.” – Psalm 133:1
PS This music video from a movie I saw here is just incredible. You should watch it. NOW.