By Hannah Stumpf | Echo
On Nov. 16, Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) hosted Passport to Culture from 6 to 9 p.m. The event was hosted by IWU's Cultural Ambassadors, a group comprised of eight students, similar to Office of Intercultural Programs (OIP) or Taylor World Outreach (TWO). Passport to Culture was the largest event the group hosted with a total of 58 booths and hundreds of visitors. The event, while being hosted in the university's gym, was also opened to the greater Marion community.
The event included booths for food and information, cultural demonstrations such as dance and sushi making, as well as a prayer room devoted for reflection on current global issues. This event differs from others IWU's Cultural Ambassadors host because they are typically more focused and smaller in scale.
Every day, there seems to be another global issue or tragedy making headlines. Given the current global state of political unrest and natural disasters, sometimes it can be hard to regroup and refocus. IWU senior Moriah Hazeltine, a member of the Cultural Ambassadors, says the group's focus this year has been to take small steps to make big changes.
"You know, it can be easy to get caught up in (global issues)," said Hazeltine. ". . . we do talk about those in our team meetings and try to talk about them in our events, but also this year we've been focusing in more locally and . . . how can we have really good conversations with someone that would change their perspective on an issue, engaging and listening with people instead of trying to change the whole world."
This year, the goal for the Cultural Ambassadors is to take this more step-by-step approach and apply it on a personal level. By giving the IWU and Marion communities tools and outlets, the Cultural Ambassadors hope that change will occur incrementally and add up to something greater. The group hopes to represent their mission statement of "diversity, equity, and justice" in intelligent conversation with people of different worldviews in a way that credits their personal experiences.
But what, exactly, does diversity mean? The event hosted booths from many different countries, and also some that may not be the first to come to mind. There was a table on Amish communities and Messianic Judaism. Interestingly, there was also a table dedicated to learning disabilities and the cultural diversities it bring to the classroom and life.
IWU freshman Makayla Kujawa, an exceptional needs psychology major, presented her booth on dyslexia as part of a class project.
"What I'm doing is taking people through simulations to kind of show them what it would be like if they were in a classroom and they had one of these things and how much more difficult it is for them to be able to learn," Kujawa said.
This caused many reactions from the participants of the event. Many who participated in Kujawa's simulations said they would not being able to complete the tasks with the addes disability simulation. This is the reaction Kujawa and her classmates were aiming for. This accomplishes the Cultural Ambassador's goal of stimulating conversation with people of different worldviews in order for people to see a situation in a new light.
Of course, all of this has a biblical goal: cultural reconciliation.
"Our work has to have a biblical foundation and the work of reconciliation has to start with the Bible because if it doesn't, it's just empty, and it doesn't end up having an effect on the systems that are in place in our world," Hazeltine said. "Jesus didn't just come to save the lost, and lift up the poor and needy and downtrodden, but also demolish the systems that create the poor and downtrodden."