United States (MNN) — Intervarsity Christian Fellowship is learning about Hawaiian culture
and building bridges for the third year.
Last week and this week, a group of ICF students and local Hawaiians are traveling around the Hawaiian islands to learn about the history, culture and the people. When missionaries arrived in the 1700s and 1800s they came with a lack of contextualization and much westernization. This meant they tried to ban things like Hawaiian language, dance, and hair styles, just for example.
Native Hawaiians, therefore, have been treated much like the Native Americans in the mainland United States. They get the worst land and have many social issues to face because of internalized racism. Internalized racism can be described as outside racism beginning to take root in the minds of a certain race and therefore becomes true.
Just like Native Americans, Native Hawaiians face higher rates of substance abuse and school drop-outs, and their communities often have little hope for the future.
The program currently taking place is trying to change that. Ho'o Lohe Pono is Hawaiian for "To Listen Rightly." Keith Hirata is taking part in the program and says, "As Christians, rather than saying, ‘We're here to bring God' and ‘God doesn't exist here, so we're here to bring Him to you,' it's basically taking a posture of saying ‘Where does God exist here?'and ‘Where is the beauty that God has placed uniquely in your culture?' and ‘How can we affirm that?'"
As a result of Western missionaries' approach to sharing the Gospel, native Hawaiians often believe they must choose between their culture and Christianity. However, ICF is trying
to tell them, "'You can be both Christian and Hawaiian, and you don't have to choose. You can be fully both.' And for those who aren't believers, we're just
trying to say, ‘OK, we want to learn from you and see where God exists.' And as we honor and respect, we're hoping that builds bridges for the future and opens doors for the Gospel."