What follows is part 1 a multi-part transcript of a sermon delivered at the Grace Chinese Christian Church annual Christmas combined service. The text was 1 Peter 2:9-10.
1. My Personal Experience Overseas as a Foreigner
When my wife and I were serving as missionaries in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania in 1997-98, in every town and village we visited we were always recognised and treated as strangers and foreigners. This was impossible to hide due to our bright white skin and red hair. However, it was also evident in our clothing, which foods we ate, the transport we used, the accommodation we slept in and, of course, our English dialect and accent.
Every day when I would walk to the market to buy potatoes and tomatoes, both children and adults would walk and sometimes run, up to me shouting, “M’zungu, m’zungu, m’zungu”, (pronounced ‘moo-zoon-goo’) and reach out to shake my hand. A “m’zungu” was the word for a white or European person. The children would often touch my arm and then run off laughing. It was as though they were surprised I wasn’t painted and the colour didn’t rub off. Adults showed a similar fascination. If I walked past a group of men, one of them would yell, “Hey m’zungu, how-are-you?” in an effort to get me to look at them and speak. In response to which, they would, again, laugh with amusement.
Even in the village where I lived and was known by all the locals, I was still greeted with taunts of “m’zungu!” After a few months when I had managed to acquire basic conversational skills in Kiswahili (a National language in Kenya) and Ekegusii (the tribal language of the Kisii people) I was still ostracised, stigmatized and taunted for being the “white guy”. I had to learn to live with the inescapable reality that no matter how long I stayed I would always be the foreigner.
2. Treatment of Immigrants & Foreigners in Australia
Many in Australia face similar struggles. Your appearance, skin colour, food, language and yes, even your clothing marks you as a stranger in a foreign land. Unfortunately, some Australians are guilty of disgusting racial taunts and discrimination that make you feel uncomfortable, unhappy and threatened. Some of you, who were born outside Australia, might have prepared yourselves for this experience. You expected to struggle with the language and have some difficulty fully integrating into Australian society. However for others, who were born here, being treated as a foreigner, comes as a painful shock. If you were born here and Australian English is your mother-tongue, you are fully conversant with the clothing, music, food and other nuances of Aussie culture, to be spoken to or treated as though you are “fresh off the boat” (slang for “newly arrived in Australia”) is a dreadful, harsh, painful and emotionally confusing experience. To establish an identity for yourself creates considerable psychological conflict. You look like a foreigner on the outside, but you think and feel like an Australian on the inside. You are a “banana”: yellow on the outside and white on the inside. This doesn’t help you deal with the assumptions and prejudice faced in Australia every day though. You have to hope that eventually people will come to know, understand and accept you. But is that enough?
To be continued…