Sunday, July 8, 2012

International Marriages

A Religious Sister mentions, in her column on pastoral work, that we are all citizens of the world. In the past, when she was asked to write about her experiences, she always refused, feeling it was like making a public confession of her life. But she has relented and shares some of her experiences with us.

She has been in the work with migrants for the last eight years, she says. In the past, it was with the heart, but now it is mostly with the mind. She is not trying to fathom the workings of the migrant's inner feelings and desires, but is more interested in helping them get ahead in the business world. It is now my desire, she says, to help make the life of the migrants understandable to our citizens.

An important aspect in her approach is to deal with the conflicted feelings concerning international marriages. Compared to how it was viewed a few years ago, much as changed--for the good. It is now something that is accepted as natural, and she is asked by many of the Christians to introduce some foreign girls to their sons. She has little difficulty in doing this,  but it is another matter to have these marriages turn out healthy, and  the family developing happily.

Most people have heard stories of  international marriages in which the woman has abandoned her husband and family, left to find work in a factory to earn money, found a man from her own country, or has not been faithful. There are many such stories.

Because of these stories, many have qualms and fears about international marriages. Our increasingly closely knit world is likely to bring us more, not less, of these marriages. But there is no need to see this negatively; we need only open ourselves, without prejudice, to the different cultures of the world.

If we ask whether the poor women who come to Korea are of an inferior status, most will answer no. When we see  things that are strange, we should ask for an explanation. When we see something we don't understand, we should be tolerant and try to explain our own culture. At times, it is our feeling of superiority in dealing with the immigrants from the poorer countries that is the problem.

International marriages can be as happy, she insists, as any other marriage. It requires getting beyond the financial difficulties and seeing others with a more open and understanding heart. We are all citizens of the world, she is fond of repeating, and we all share its joys and its sorrows. This is not all that difficult. We have the example of Jesus, who had no prejudice and considered everyone equal. He is our teacher.

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