We shall overcome
Minju Kim is a student from South Korea, currently studying Language, Culture and Communication in Hong Kong. Her lifelong challenge and adventure has always been living in a multicultural society, as from time to time she has the opportunity to live with people from different countries. Minju likes reading, writing and sharing thoughts with other people.
This summer, I had a chance to participate in three camps in Agape Centro Ecumenico. The Center is at the top of a beautiful small village called Prali which is located an hour drive away from Turn, Italy.
For three weeks, I had an advantage of enjoying the magnificent nature surrounding the place. What I earned in Agape was not only this nature but also an opportunity to meet friends from all over the world. Each year during summer, multiple camps held by the Hosting Committee of Agape brings people around the world to discuss on various topics. The three camps I attended were theological, work camp and political, each one’s theme being childhood in the Bible, happiness and migrants. In each camp, I learned through many discussions and activities with other participants. I gained new knowledge and thoughts but in this short writing, I would like to talk about what I generally learned and was kept reminded of through all the camps.
Despite my expectation of English being the lingua franca, I faced some language barriers with some participants as some were from non-English speaking country. It was not what I had presumed before arriving in Agape and I was more than a little surprised by this. However, as the spirit of Agape lays in voluntary work and living together as a community, I soon found a way to communicate with other people without restraint. Discussions during theological camp helped immensely in adapting into a situation like this. Through regular sessions, we were able to share our thoughts and opinions with interpreters’ help and while listening carefully to others’, I suddenly struck me that listening openmindedly comes before being too concerned about which language one was speaking. Accepting others’ viewpoints about a subject and sharing mine logically at the same time sounded like an obvious attitude of communication but it is never easy. It becomes harder when a person who has a different opinion is someone you have never come across before. It was this camp where I could practice viewing a topic from different perspectives with people who I have never met before. Overcoming the language barrier, I learned the importance of open-mindedness and understanding a concept from a broad point of view.
If one asks me what I had gained other than learning how to be truly open-minded from Agape, it would be diverse cultural experience. One of the best features about Agape is pursuit of everyone’s happiness through sharing joyful spirit of each individual. Learning how to dance and sing in different languages were challenging yet giving me a rare opportunity to experience cultures of countries I have never been before. Experiencing Italian culture applied to everybody, through food, notion of time and other daily lifestyles. Traditional dances performed by friends were more than impressive, and unique snacks from diverse countries were unforgettable. Picking up some useful expressions or even knowing how to pronounce our names in different languages were short and brief experiences but it did not take long for me to realize they were chances never provided so easily if it were not for a multicultural society like Agape. I could also learn political aspects of many countries. It struck me how there were so many crucial issues regarding democracy, freedom of speech, human rights and etc in so many countries that mainstream news sometimes do not pay attention to. Meeting and making friends from many countries helped me increase my awareness of global importance. I personally took the chance to introduce an important problem in my country, South Korea. Sewol Ferry Incident which happened only two years ago in 2014, has taken away so many innocent passengers’ lives by people outside the ferry being unaware of the seriousness of the situation. It was heartwarming and even grateful to have an opportunity to talk about such a tragic incident of my country and share grief by distributing yellow ribbons which symbolize Korean people’s promise to not forget what had happened to the victims.
To describe my amazing 3 weeks at Agape in one word, I would say ‘potential’. Everyone whom I met in Agape had hope deep in their minds; and also the will to carry it out in actions once they step out to the bigger world. Encouraging others’ beliefs by supporting or simply listening closely one’s view made me think that this is how we shall overcome the difficulties around the world. Appreciating one’s culture along with other cross-cultural experience could play a pivotal role in creating more peace in the world. As a participant of 2016 summer camps, I cannot wait to go back there someday and develop what I had learned there more.