Exploring Unity and Faith in a Diverse Community
Faith Groups can be instrumental in bringing a diverse community together. The opportunity to reach out to people in the name of love is truly a great adventure, especially when there are several churches within a community and sometimes two or three in one neighborhood. There is no excuse if a community is in jeopardy of being destroyed by drugs and crime and alienation because faith groups are unwilling to reach out to the diversity of people within that community. But included in all religion should be the value of love and love means reaching out to help and encourage people regardless of race, ethnic, or cultural differences.
There are several stages in which faith groups can unite and become instrumental in establishing peace within a neighborhood or community. First of all, churches within the vicinity of one another must find a common ground to base their possible togetherness upon; that common ground should be the quality of the spirit of love, a quality which ignores differences and reaches out to all. All disagreements over doctrine and scripture must be sacrificed for this one great purpose, the purpose of love.
The Love Mentality
As an ordained minister, I have embraced this vision of love head on, having participated in the reaching out of several faith groups in the city of Milwaukee Wisconsin. These groups have reached out to various people in the community such as Hispanics, Hmong's, and African Americans as well as Arabian people. The key in their success was the giving and sharing of love which connects all people. Great understanding and peace come about because there was no mention of denominations or specific faiths; only love was offered through various forms of personal assistance such as community events and activities that familiarized the groups with one another. Those of them that wanted no part of this movement were certainly not forced to participate. However, they were marked people and people to be observed in case they were unwilling to see this community movement succeed.
As was stated earlier, in our reaching out we were not to push our faith on one another or on the people of the community. Our only intention was to show love and to share our kindness so that people of the community could see that goodwill, assistance, and encouragement still existed in the world, or at least that part of the world
Working the Community
Do Your Church Work the Community?
Diversity in Religious Groups
In many communities across the country, the diversity is so great that many churches and faith groups don't want the responsibility of reaching out, mainly because of the difficulties of intercultural communication. They do not want to deal with the frustration of communicating with people who look different, talk different, and act different from the majority in the community. I have known several churches who only dealt with people of their own race. This attitude is truly shameful for faith groups to practice.
Nevertheless, faith and religion consist of love and forgiveness for our neighbor's .For a community to wholly prosper; all diversity must be accepted and understood. The concept of Stranger must be resolved within a peaceful and happy community. The very idea of stranger promotes separation, suspicions, prejudices, discriminations, and stereotypes. In a diverse community there are many strangers. This is the greatest opportunity for faith groups: to reach out to strangers and make them friends.
Influential Faith Groups
In order to be effective in influencing a community toward unity, peace and justice, faith groups must instill three qualities with the families:
The Right Attitude toward Strangers
When love and kindness are shown in behavior and attitude toward strangers as well as friends and enemies, mistrust vanishes and a great transformation is possible. There are no communities immune to this kind of goodwill practice. The light of love destroys the mistrust in a neighborhood or community. However in a community, certain issues must be confronted in addition to culture and diversity, because there are problems and troubles in all cultures. In a community there are crime, drugs, and broken homes, hopelessness, and despair. This is a potential trouble source. By trouble source I mean those elements of the neighborhood or community that are a problem, either to themselves or someone else. Nevertheless, those in the community who do not believe in a faith or a religion or a God the power of love will still triumph; nothing can withstand it.
Image of God in Everyone
Every honest faith group should be assured of this fact. The image of God is to be recognized in all people without respect for persons. No matter what the cost faith groups must reach out to rescue a diverse community that is overwhelmed with troubles. Ordinary citizens and government programs can only go so for in building community. These programs go so for as bringing people together, but without the push to create lasting relationships. After the show is over, people go home. Strangers go home. But the power of the faith group is to bring intimacy of relationship and fellowship, and to give of oneself so that the stranger becomes the friend and all distrust vanishes.
Reaching the Poor and Downhearted
Another issue that must be dealt with in a diverse community is that of the poor and downhearted. In many communities across the United States, minority groups such as African American, Mexicans, Indians, and Hispanics live below the poverty level. Many of these people have lost hope in their ability to handle the affairs of their lives. Therefore the assistance, encouragement, and hope that can be offered by faith groups within those communities would be of great benefit. Faith groups can offer goodwill and kindness by reaching out to such minority groups with the offerings of food and shelter, friendliness and fellowship. Study of African American college students revealed that "religious participation has been linked to civic, participation, volunteerism, philanthropic given, and other forms of altruistic behavior among African Americans." (Constantine, p227) I believe that the influence of faith can benefit to all people in a diverse community. The poor and down hearted must be taught how to love again. They have lost hope in love and in people. For faith groups the door is indeed open.
Broken Homes and Households
Still another issue in the community is that of broken homes, one parent households, and wayward adolescents. In these homes the children are mostly neglected and alienated from the power of love and affection. Therefore many adolescents fall into drugs and alcohol and various other activities that is disruptive to a community. Many times children become hopeless and depress and begin to seek acceptance in one another through gang activities and substance abuse. Reaching out to broken homes with sincere involvement can make a fantastic difference in the lives of those who live in these homes. Faith groups can embrace single parents and help them with various needs such as foods, money, love, and assistance and support for the children. This is the kind of influence that faith groups can have in a diverse community.
A faith group can be a kind of extended family to broken and troubled homes of a community. The sincere involvement in the life of community is what makes a difference in society, and one of the functions of Faith and Religion is the establishment of peace, love, and togetherness. People out in the community are looking for love, and peace, whether or not, they express this need in their activities and behaviors. Many oppressed people only need a genuine chance to get back upon their feet before they can make meaningful contributions to society. For example, in order not to succumb to hopelessness, an individual who has lost his or her job might take disparate measures to survive such as breaking the law. But if this person is confronted and his or her necessities are taken care of by a good faith group in the community, the chances of that person becoming a potential trouble source are significantly lessened.
Helping the Community
In addition to their various religious practices, Faith groups need a unique plan of self-actualization included in their program. This plan of self-actualization should accommodate the religious beliefs or the lack thereof of all people. For example, some people are atheistic and don't accept a God at all. A unique plan of self-actualization will help instill a sense of esteem in those in society who has a low concept of themselves, so that they may participate in community building. People must understand that every person has the image of his or her maker within them and this fact makes them unique.
In understanding all that has been said, it can now be seen how faith groups can play a dynamic and life changing role in a community or neighborhood. All it takes for a common ground is the union of love among the various faith groups within a community. Otherwise if communities are left up to the law enforcements and governments sponsored community programs, the conditions within a diverse community will remain the same. It will be full of strangers of diverse races, cultures, and backgrounds that will breed suspicions, discriminations, stereotypes, violence, and crime.
Constantine, Madonna G; Marie Miville. "Religion Spirituality and Career Development in African American College Students: A Qualitative Inquiry." Carrier Development Quarterly. Vol. 54, 227-241 Academic Search Premier March 2006.