Belonging and Exclusion – A Conversation

The latest issue of the Christian Courier takes the question of belonging as its theme, with a particular focus on issues of race and culture. Here is my “column” for this issue.

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The theme of belonging is rich with challenge and possibility and it seemed to me that I would do better not to try and explore this theme merely on my own. As a result, I share with you the content of an interview/exchange I had with the Rev. Oliver Kondeh Ndula, a minister of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon and a graduate student at McGill University/The Presbyterian College, here in Montreal.

RDV:  The idea of “belonging” is understood in variety of ways. How do you understand “belonging”?

OKN:  I understand “belonging” to mean the ease with which people get integrated into communities, especially communities other than those of their origin. From this perspective the concept is dualistic. On the one hand the other needs to take the initiative to get integrated into his/her new community. On the other hand, the new community can either facilitate or impair the process.

RDV:  Do you think it is possible to fully belong in some place or community? Continue reading

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searching for home…

My beautiful pictureWhen I think about my late grandfather, images of him come quickly and vividly to my mind. I see him sitting on the front porch of my grandparent’s home – surrounded by potted annuals – a cigarette between his fingers and an ashtray on the table beside him. I see him on another occasion leaning over me on that front porch as I painted the floor in typical front porch grey – he was a housepainter by trade, so there was advice concerning my technique. I remember him standing at his painting easel, also. If he was a house painter by trade, he was an artist at heart. I see him walking through the greenhouses that he and my two uncles owned and operated together, never doing much better than breaking even. I remember sitting beside him on his hospital bed, thin and weak, not too many days before he died.

My grandparents immigrated to Canada from The Netherlands, with many others, in the post World War II context. In 1951 they came as a family, my mom a 14 –year-old young woman at the time.

Whenever I think about my grandfather – whenever I think about his life and identity – there are so many rich memories. But when I think about him today I also do so in the light of words spoken about him at his funeral in 1989 – words spoken by my dad at that time. An important aspect of my grandfather’s life and identity was that he was never really at home here in Canada. From these shores he looked back on his life in The Netherlands, and there was so much he missed: Continue reading