By Rachel Bergen
Just a couple of weeks ago, I finished my year-long term as a participant of Mennonite Central Committee Serving and Learning Together (SALT) where I worked as a writer and editor for ICF.
Although I’m very happy to return home to my family and friends after a year away, I’m saddened to leave behind the many friends I’ve met through ICF.
One of the many lessons I’ve learned in Cambodia was humbling myself to listen, rather than impose my beliefs, values and traditions on people. In this quiet, contemplative space, I’ve learned to make more room for difference.
“God creates difference; therefore it is in one-who-is-different that we meet God.” – Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, The Dignity of Difference
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks wrote in his book, The Dignity of Difference, that “God creates difference; therefore it is in one-who-is-different that we meet God.” I have found this to be true during my year living in Cambodia and in my work with ICF.
As I’ve met SOP alumni and written and edited articles about them, I’ve learned a great deal about how difficult it is to make space for difference, but how important it is. It is in you, SOP alumni, that I see God.
Rabbi Sacks says, “The test of faith is whether I can make space for difference. Can I recognize God’s image in someone who is not in my image, who language, faith, ideal, are different from mine? If I cannot, then I have made God in my image instead of allowing him to remake me in his.”
Although I disagree with Sacks’ gendering of God (God is too big to be either male or female), I agree with his premise. How often have we reduced a person to see them just by what makes them different and used it as a reason to alienate ourselves from them and perpetuate conflict? How often has this happened at SOP? I’ve observed how miraculous it is when people let go of their preconceived ideas and make space for difference.
All this is to say, thank you ICF and members of the network for all you’ve taught me over the last year and for showing me a reflection of God. I’ll never forget my experience working with you.