The Dance of Diversity

Rev Raja Rajakulendran and Eseta Meneilly at the Cross-Cultural Mission and Ministry Conference in 2007

By Megan Graham

THIS photo (left) simply emanates joy. Two people dancing together, their enjoyment clearly reflected in their smiling faces.  This image reflects the celebratory atmosphere of the Cross-Cultural Mission and Ministry (CCMM) Conference of 2007, where a diversity of people, culture, food (and dance moves, no doubt) combined to make a wonderful time of reflection and fellowship.

The theme of this year’s CCMM conference, to be held in May, is ‘God’s tapestry: Creating Space for Diversity’. Director of CCMM, Rev Swee-Ann Koh, is excited about exploring exactly what this means for the Church.

“A tapestry depends on differences, thrives on multiplicity. So God’s tapestry is an image about the identity and purpose of God’s diverse people as a worldwide community. Diversity is not something to be feared or a problem to be solved,” he said.

As a church, the UCA has a long history of reflecting God’s tapestry. Today the church has more than 200 non-English speaking congregations in Australia, with the number increasing each year. On any given Sunday, services are held in 40 different languages.

Cultural Diversity Week – 16 to 24 March – invites Victorians from all ethnicities and backgrounds to participate in a range of events and activities to celebrate our nation’s rich cultural diversity. Each year, tens of thousands of people finish the week by gathering at Melbourne’s Federation Square for the annual Viva Victoria festival – a culmination of music and dance performances, exotic foods, art displays and workshops.

More than forty-six per cent of Melbournians were born overseas or are children of migrants. Melbourne is consistently voted the most liveable city in the world, discrediting the oft-touted claim of the ‘failure of multiculturalism’. Many people visit Melbourne precisely because of its rich culture and diversity.

Diversity Week, and the CCMM 2012 conference, both offer great opportunities for us to appreciate the wide variety of languages, faiths and cultures – and reflect on how much multiculturalism benefits our lives.

Jimmy Carter, former President of the United States and recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize once said: “We have become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams.”

A beautiful mosaic of people – I think this is a vision we can all get behind.

This year’s CCMM conference will be held on 18 May at Essendon Uniting Church from 9am – 3.30pm.

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