Lauren Rutledge spoke to the Global Culture class on Tuesday night about what it’s like to be a foreigner in northern India. Lauren spent the summer at Saffron Cultural Exchange in Dehradun, India- a program for dancers and artists from the West to experience cultural arts in India. The Saffron Cultural Exchange is run by Belhaven grad CL Pearce and his wife Kirsten.
Some of the themes Lauren addressed included food, travel, clothes, and poverty. She helped the audience imagine streets occupied by overcrowded taxis honking their horns, cows, and street venders. She also made us nostalgic about fresh mangoes and roti (bread).
Belhaven, along with more than a dozen other US universities, hosts several of Rwanda’s brightest students through an exchange program. But what about Rwandan students who are interested in a good university education but don’t have the English scores to qualify for entrance int a US university? Belhaven student Anselme (Nathan) Mucunguzi has started a foundation to help 25 rural Rwandans prepare for entrance exams each year. The brilliance of the foundation, called Inspire Scholar’s Foundation, is that it does not waste money. English teachers who are already in Rwanda spend their Christmas holidays or summer holidays helping local schools throughout the country to identify students that would benefit from the scholarship. Then the selected students receive intensive local tutoring for the tests.
Mucunguzi’s foundation was recently featured in a story at times.com Click here for the full story.
To give to the foundation, go to their website Inspire Scholar’s Foundation
Students in the “Teachings of World Religions” class visited the Hindu Temple Society of Mississippi in Brandon earlier in October, for the 9 day festival called Navratri (meaning nine nights). The local swami explained, “The festival is in honor of the goddess Durga, who is believed to be incarnated in different forms over the nine nights. Each day she is expected to kill off certain types of evil.”
The religious aspect of the festival raised the question for evangelical students about how far one goes in “participant observation”. Would you eat fruit that was originally offered to a god or goddess? (Note Paul’s complicated answer in Romans 14). The Belhaven group was graciously offered deep fried fruit, cream of wheat, sodas and fruit. In line with the non-precise time reckoning of the Eastern hemisphere, the main meal was still not underway when we finally left around 9:30 at night.
Many students were surprised to hear that there is a Hindu temple in central Mississippi. There is obviously a large clientele who rely on the temple, as we noticed there were hundreds of people at the Navratri festival. The temple society is used to hosting students. “We have guests all the time from local schools, including Millsaps and St Andrews,” explained the swami. I’m sure the Belhaven students appreciate that some members of the local Indian community explained a bit about the festival, their experience as emigrants, and their understanding of Hinduism.