be yourself Archives - St. Stephen's University

Confiscating Cultures?

By | 2017, Europe | No Comments

The weight of the historical achievements of architecture, sculpture, engineering, technology and art can be felt in many great museums, such as the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum in London. The feeling that all of these artifacts that formed cultural and societal development throughout the world were in one place for me to experience was a great and exciting sensation, which I felt very prominently as I walked through halls filled with various specimens from long-lost cultures of Europe and Asia.

Victoria & Albert Museum (Courtesy of website)

However, this sense of awe was overshadowed by a question of ownership that had been brought up earlier in our week in London and before the trip. It deals with the fact that some of the artifacts in these museums may be have been stolen for the museums without  taking into account the significance of those objects to the countries that they were from, such as the many Egyptian mummies in the British Museum.

I think the issue has more complexities than simply robbed artifacts, such as legitimately acquiring items through trade, purchase or quite possibly to preserve them to name a few, and it is often not an issue of larger powers robbing from others. I also cannot discount the incredible value of having all of those pieces in one place to study and for the world to come and see. However, in a time where most countries can easily access other ones for research and travel, I wonder whether or not it is necessary to continue to uproot historical landmarks and objects from their cultural context. This is the question I will wrestle with as I travel throughout the rest of Europe, encountering more cultures and their historical achievements.

Faithfulness and Fear Mongering; My Response to the Manchester Bombing

By | 2017, Europe | No Comments

The loss of life – any human life- is a tragic occurrence. One thing worse than wanton killing, is the manipulation of grieving. The morning paper on the train into central London is NOT the best quality. It is, however, mass produced and widely available to the public. Unfortunately. Our theme of Seeing the Other was (potentially) put to the test in our first week of travels when the Manchester attack occurred.

How do we continue seeing the other when the other has proven them self to be dangerous? The papers jumped – nay PREYED- upon this question. The fear people have of the other, especially the Islamic or the migrant other, is real and the fear mongering occurs. The headline “Now They Kill Our Little Girls” and “He Was Chanting His Prayers Loudly In The Street” preyed upon Other- ing. Who is they? The question is open ended in order for the reader to fill it in with whatever prejudice they hold: Muslims, migrants, religious other, ISIS….

Even the positive headlines are enforcing the idea of other: particularly the Muslim other with headlines such as “Muslim Heroes of Manchester” and “Muslim Leaders: Never Let Barbaric Animals Destroy Us”. Their association with the already established “other” makes them vulnerable and likely to fall under suspicion anyway- despite the good they have done.

It was interesting to be in a Mosque the week of the tragedy. To see and hear about Islam from a faithful follower of Islam, someone who believes that what they follow is the doctrine that will bring them to God, was so beautifully refreshing. After having learned about Islam from the media and possessing a warped understanding of the religion, I was not sure about what should or should not be believed about this religion so similar and so different from mine. I received a Quran from our presenter, which was a weird moment for me. As a Catholic I read the Bible. I wouldn’t know how to read the Quran. But to have it, to hold their sacred text, is a beautiful reminder to fight the¬†things that inspire fear, and to follow those that lead you in faithfulness to God.