Being a minority

Holy Light Church, Johor Bahru, Malaysia a home for the minority Catholics in this southern-most area in the Malaysia Peninsula

“I want to travel to places where I am becoming a minority.”

This is my response when people – including myself – asked me, “Where to go next?”

But why minority? I have been all my life living in a society which I was part of its majority. In such society, I found that majority was – frequently – equal to normality. Hence, when majority says that having black hair and fair skin is perceived as beautiful, that perception is potentially – if not becoming – the truth.

It is no wonder that statements such as, “Indonesia is the most culturally-diverse country,” without seeing the other parts of the world, shaped the false idea of nationalism. Like frog in its shell, one’s truth and view of the world is defined by the shell or bubble they lived in and grew up with. This is the same with statements such as, “My faith is the only true faith.”

When a nut meets its proper bolt or the two pieces of puzzle properly attached, things may seemed ideal. And this ‘ideal fit’ can be quickly perceived as truth. Worse, like a bird born in cage believing that flying is bad, a person born and grew up with given idea will believe that it is the only true idea. Traveling to places where I became part of its minority challenged me to re-question and redefine what constitutes to true and ‘truth.’

Apart from challenging my truth, traveling to such places put me to depend on, mostly, myself. While living in the comfort of my home country, where I don’t have to learn about the custom, language and food, my life has been ‘easy’ and comfortable.

Meeting new people, along with their different – contrary, sometimes – culture, habits and language, woke me up from my comfort sleep and introduced a sense of unknown. And, to me, learning and change is triggered by getting in touch with the unknown.

Of course, traveling to such places required me to be comfortable with and surrender myself to uncertainty. Believing that every human being is naturally kind greatly helped me to overcome the fear of and the discomfort coming from the unknown and uncertainty. Of course, there were times the unknown and uncertainty became (almost) unbearable. This is where becoming ‘naked’, without any labels and stay true to the essence of being human, is important to being a minority in a new place.

I remember responding to a question from an old man in Isfahan, Iran, claimed himself as atheist, on my belief in God but not to religion which he found strange, “To me, religion and faith is important but not as important as believing that God wanted us to be kind to one another.”

What’s your experience traveling to places where you were a minority?

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