What is this thing called the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF)?
Sofie BONDE ERIKSEN
When people ask me what the WSCF is, I get uncomfortable and stumble. I stutter something about dialogue among Christian denominations and its activism and about it being a “safe space”. While these words are coming out of my mouth my brain is working at high speed. I try to figure out what would convince the person in front of me that the WSCF is something unique that they must get to know. I try to figure out what he or she understands by the word, “Christian” and what experiences they have had with “church” to date. I try, in my few words, to express that I am normal and not particularly judgemental, that I don’t get personally offended if they do not believe in God or am bothered if they think that going to church is the most boring thing they could ever spend their time doing. I try to analyse their relationship with Christianity and, if it is broken, to attempt to fix it.
However, when they look confusedly at my stumbling and unconvincing responses, unaware that I am frantically analysing and trying to anticipate issues that might arise from what I am about to say, they become uncomfortable and, understandably, would rather we talk about something else.
And then I bite my tongue, because once again I did not succeed in conveying what I believe to be the absolute best and most important way to spend their time, with the WSCF Community.
I believe it is a failing that despite being the chairperson of WSCF-E I feel so inadequate when “selling” what we do. I trust and pray that other students are more successful in this than I am, and that I bring something else to the table.
One day I walked by a kiosk in Denmark and checked out the newspaper front pages. One said something like: “Thousands of Romanians are coming to take your jobs!”,“Danish Kasper has applied for 100’s jobs and is still unemployed” and “Romanian Alexandru says: I am not going anywhere!”. I found these front pages to be extremely provoking because of their cheap and unfair presentations of the actual situation. The purpose of headlines like this are to nurture the lowest common denominator in all of us by whispering in our ear that ‘there is but one enemy, one group of people to blame for all our nation’s troubles and the answer to this problem is easy!’ Over simplifying the argument sells more newspapers. What makes this ‘easy solution’ all the more tempting is that those apparently responsible for these national difficulties are anonymous and remote from us. “Thousands of Romanians” – who are they exactly?
The most valuable thing we can do together is to both silently and loudly oppose the kind of simple solutions these newspaper headlines offer and hope I would buy. The strongest force against the xenophobia that falsely purports to be a friend in all kinds of crises, be they financial, social or political, is to keep questioning and not be satisfied with easy answers. Seek to make yourself familiar with the true facts underlying the story.
We can also meet as one in prayer and trust. Again and again I find that it magically happens whenever the WSCF community gathers at meetings and events; students take the risk of making themselves vulnerable and engage in prayer with others that they have often only just met. They commit to respectful dialogue on difficult topics and let their worldview and contexts be challenged. This is what I understand by “Living faith together for justice”. It is a commitment to reach out beyond yourself and seek God’s guidance in community with those who are strangers to you.
Gather us in and hold us forever,
Gather us in and make us your own;
Gather us in all people together,
Fire of love in our flesh and our bone
By this fire we should be led with a dedication to reach out to the stranger and meet the world humbly with trust and confront the hateful whispers with loud opposition. These two points are something to be learned over and over again. We need to be reminded whenever we loose our way to avoid choosing easy solutions to difficult problems.
For everything I have learned and experienced through the last four years I am deeply grateful.