Angela was selected to attend the Ship for World Youth 26. The ship departed Japan, with ports of call in India and Sri Lanka. She described the ship as 'one of the most loving and supportive environments I have ever had the privilege to be a part of'. Read her full reflection below, entitled: Future Global Leaders - behind the buzzwords.
I live in a world where Paris faced a terrorist attack and the whole world mourned. Yet, hours before the Paris attack my Facebook Feed did not even register a blip about ISIS’s attack on Beirut.
I live in a world where a man can spread racist hate speech and promote white supremacy. He willingly encourages violence and paints a whole population group as “rapists and murderers.” His punishment as of today, winning 18 states out of 30 Republican primaries.
Why you ask does this prejudice and intolerance exist?
Here’s what I’ve learnt on the issue through living with 240 people from 11 different representative nationalities. Living together in an enclosed space without any connection to the outside world for a month.
#Bahrain #UnitedArabEmirates #Chile #Mexico #India #SriLanka #Japan #Tanzania #Russia #Australia #NewZealand
The first is that “People see the world, not as it is, but as they are.”
During the course of this program, I gave a presentation about my passion in addressing the social injustice around inequality that stems from racial discrimination. I then gave an example and used the term, “black people.”
I learnt much later on that I had offended one of the Tanzanians who had attended my seminar by using that term. I was horrified that I had caused such pain to this person even if it was unintentional. It was at that moment that I realised it didn’t matter that what I was speaking about was around minimising racial discrimination. I had used a word that was accepted in the cultural background that I grew up with and had unwittingly promulgated the very thing I wanted to stop.
That person never confronted me about it and I wished they did. That way I could have apologised for the hurt I caused but also we could have gotten into a much deeper discussion about what using that term had meant to them.
Over the course of the first two weeks together, I heard many rumblings of similar episodes of cultural misunderstandings. I guess that is to be expected when you throw people in a confined space. Where people’s choices behind the values they hold dear, their religion, the food they eat, the clothes they wear, the list goes on, it all gets challenged in a very confronting manner. Yes, even people who have identified themselves as “the next generation of global leaders” can make these mistakes too.
The simple reality is in our normal everyday lives, most of us find it is much easier to be in comfortable groups that do not make us question our life choices. Instead, we seek confirmation bias and ongoing validation of our choices against the background of uncertainty we live in. As the famous saying goes, “Birds of a feather flock together.”
But when you are all stuck on a ship in the middle of the ocean and disconnected from the Internet and other groups of friends and family, there is NO escape. People were forced to deal with the issues they have with themselves and with others. More importantly, we had the time and space to deal with those issues. We also engaged in fun activities to learn more about the other cultures, only for us to come to the conclusion that we were more alike than we were different.
Whereby, over the course of the last two weeks there was a gradual shift towards self-acceptance and therefore acceptance of others. People became less quick to judge and more tolerant instead. The ship and its inhabitants had turned into one of the most loving and supportive environments I have ever had the privilege to be a part of.
Like a baby delivered back out into the real world from the protective and nurturing bubble of a mother’s womb, the one-month is up. I am back to managing the constant competing priorities of real life.
I am left wondering whether the conditions that promoted peace, acceptance and love on the ship with such a diverse group of people was something that could easily be recreated in the real world. I’m not sure what the answer is yet but I feel like I’m one step closer to figuring it out.
Peace and Love,