Reflection on experiences by Brooke Holzheimer.
In August this year, ACU provided me with the amazing opportunity to attend the ASEACCU Conference and Student Camp which was held in Semarang, Indonesia. Overall, I found the trip inspirational and extremely rewarding.
The themes of ASEACCU 2015 were Catholic higher education, religious inclusiveness, and acceptance and tolerance of diversity. I can confidently say that I have learnt so much and was inspired by the conference speakers, activities, and the other students who attended. It was great to meet such a diverse group of people who have come together from many different races, religions and locations around the world. I have definitely made many new friends for life.
The Student Camp
I found the student camp to be the highlight of my trip. I spent two days and one night in Banyu Urip Hamlet, a small village, home to farmers and their families. These people have very close to nothing. My host family’s house had a dirt floor, the roof and walls had many gaps, and the family of four share one double bed. Despite having so little, everyone in the village have the biggest hearts. They were welcoming, friendly, and joyful people who continuously offered food which they prepared from their own farms. The village is made up of Christians, Muslims, and Buddhists, and it was inspiring to learn how religious inclusivity is practiced. Everyone comes together to help build each other’s places of worship. They also invite all village members to celebrate religious holidays, for example, Christians will insist on celebrating Christmas alongside the Muslims and Buddhists. They are also very willing to help each other with their farming despite each having their own sections of land for their income. It was very rewarding to see these people living in such peace and harmony due to their religious inclusiveness and acceptance of differences. The days spent here have made me feel extremely lucky and appreciative of everything that I have.
The second part of the trip was the conference, consisting of many inspirational speakers. There was a priest who spoke about the importance of interreligious dialogue and explained how he has been committed to building strong relationships with people from various religions. Another was a Muslim woman who spoke about religious driven conflict. Listening to her views on terrorist groups was particularly interesting. These speakers highlighted the extreme urgency to use Catholic higher education as a strategy to teach and promote religious inclusiveness and acceptance of diversity. Further strategies to do so include the following:
- Promote respect to all
- Challenge stereotypes
- Address issues of discrimination and prejudice
- Build understanding towards each other
- Focus more on each other’s similarities yet still appreciating differences
- Developing narratives that promote inclusivity
ASEACCU is truly an unforgettable trip which I am very thankful to have been able to experience. I can confidently say that I have developed new perspectives on various issues and will strive to practice the teachings of religious inclusivity and welcome diversity in my day-to-day life.
I believe the experience has greatly benefited me as a business/marketing student. I have become far more culturally aware, which will help me with possible international marketing or business activities in my future career. I will now be more mindful of cultural barriers and differences and have also gained confidence with interacting with people of different races and backgrounds. Furthermore, I believe that the trip has highlighted the strong importance of promoting ethical and socially responsible business operations, particularly in international settings such as in developing countries.
I would strongly recommend that all students of ACU keep an eye out and apply for any scholarships and opportunities such as this, as the trip has had such a positive and inspirational influence on my life.
Page last updated: 2017-06-28
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