Embracing our differences reminds us that every human being is irreplaceable
Rikako Makita, a third-year student in the Faculty of Theology says, “I’ve discovered that I used to be very limited in my worldview, but I am now more accepting of a wide variety of ideas and values.”
Through her studies, she has been able to open her mind to new perspectives while uncovering a deeper connection with her existing Christian values, which has inspired her to make a difference in the world.
Encountering new beliefs and perspectives in everyday life
As someone who has attended missionary schools their entire life, Christianity has been a part of my identity from a young age, and I have always placed great importance on my Faith. Therefore, it was a natural decision for me to study Christianity at university, which led me to attend Sophia University, as they are home to Japan’s only Catholic Faculty of Theology.
At Sophia, it’s common to hear conversations in many different languages, which is a testament to the global mindset of the university. There is a feeling of being connected to the whole world that resonates throughout the campus, which makes for an exciting and inspirational environment.
Even though Sophia is a Catholic university and I am a student in the theology department, not all students are Christians. The department is especially diverse and contains many international students of all ages and faiths. Being able to study in this sort of environment has given me a new perspective on religion, and the open dialogue I have with my peers has opened my mind to new ways of thinking.
Even the cafeteria holds opportunities for me to learn about the beliefs of others. By eating in the on-campus cafeteria that specializes in halal and vegan options, I’ve been able to learn about the connection between food and other religions, which is fascinating to me as a Christian, since my religious views aren’t often represented in my daily meals.
In addition to my studies, I am also a member of the university’s Kyudo club, which practices the ancient Japanese martial art of archery. Kyudo is a sport that requires great mental strength, as any emotional disturbances and lack of focus will affect the shooting position. Being able to physically practice archery while building up my mental resilience at the same time provides me with transferable skills that help me to be a better student, while the friendly competitions that I have on a daily basis with other club members allows me to form social bonds with people whom I respect and admire.
Discovering how Christian values can be used to inspire peace
As a student of the Faculty of Theology, I had assumed that I would mostly be focusing on Christianity and Catholicism from an academic perspective. However, it’s so much more than that. There is an emphasis on covering contemporary issues that society faces, and how Catholic values fit into our modern solutions.
In our “Peace Studies” class, we discussed the conflict in Northern Ireland, and how important the idea of creating a dialogue was for achieving unity. With the concept of dialogue also being an important Christian value, I believe that keeping this idea in mind when viewing the modern world is a great way to stay focused on working together with all mankind as we try and solve the problems of today.
Through my studies at the Faculty of Theology, I’ve begun to see the relationship between Christian values and modern social movements. In recent years, we’ve seen calls for a more sustainable society and the acceptance of diversity, which are aligned with the Christian belief that each human being is precious and irreplaceable. This value of “no one left behind” can also be found in Sophia’s motto, “For Others, With Others.”
Through my studies, I am reminded every day that I exist only because of the kindness and support of others and that I shouldn’t take that for granted. In this one life that we have, we have to help each other out in any way we can. I want to be a person who is fully accepting of others, and shares in all the pains and joys of life with them, rather than keeping my emotional distance.
This is something that I have discovered through my studies, and have come to realize that regardless of what career path I choose to follow after graduation, I know that if I approach the world from a Catholic perspective, my learnings will be helpful in any number of occupations.
Self-reflection leads us to new discoveries about ourselves
Since the Faculty of Theology has a comparatively small number of students, it allows for the students and professors to really get to know each other on a personal level, and discuss what our faith means to us. Even when working with students who aren’t Christian themselves, it’s an opportunity to reflect on why we do the things that we do, which leads to new discoveries and realizations about ourselves.
For example, it’s not uncommon to be asked by students who aren’t Christian about going to church every Sunday. Being given the opportunity to think about something that, as a weekly ritual, sometimes doesn’t get the thought that it deserves really helps remind me of why I make the decision to attend church every week.
As a third-year student, I have been able to look back and see how much growth I’ve already experienced since attending Sophia. One of the biggest realizations I’ve discovered is that I used to be very limited in my worldview, and only considered something as “normal” if it aligned with the majority opinion or my personal experience. Studying theology while interacting with people from various backgrounds has made me reconsider my previous subconscious bias, and I am now more accepting of a wide variety of ideas and values.
Being able to open my mind in this way has allowed me to grow in ways I had not expected, and I now know that concepts like normality are not black and white, and each person has their own definition of what’s important to them. With a year remaining before I graduate, I’m excited to see how I will continue to grow in my final year of study.
In the future, I want to become a person who can help shape a society where each person considers the opinions and feelings of others, and everyone treats each other with kindness and respect. The idea that there is only one right way to do something is fundamentally wrong and does not take human empathy into consideration.
After graduation, I would like to take the education I gained at the Faculty of Theology and work in a profession that is focused on helping marginalized minorities have better lives. I hope to show the world that every human being is special and that they are deserving of respect and dignity, regardless of their background or personal situation.
※Please note that the content of this article is current as of October 2021