I was rather excited about his inquisitive question and I realised that this was truly the beginning of many years of learning ahead, about heritage and culture, and most of all embracing cultural difference.
The question on the lips of our eldest child was a valid one. My husband, and father to our three boys, is from the Philippines. His darker skin tones has resulted in two of our boys having darker, olive skin like their dad and the other has fairer skin, obviously from my side of the family, which is a German/Scottish/English mix.
The physical differences in our children are fairly subtle, but clearly was enough to trigger the inquiring mind of a 5 year old. After answering his questions and then listening to the subsequent humorous conversations between my children regarding the topic, it made me realise the potential I have at my fingertips.
This would be to not only teach our children about their cultural heritage, but also to instil in them at this young age about genuinely embracing others who live in our community, no matter which cultural groups they represent.
I recently visited Melbourne and learnt of large Sudanese community living in an outer suburb. They are living, studying and working in the suburbs of Melbourne, but are very much a neglected and isolated community living amidst a very white Australian population.
If my slightly darker son feels different to his brother, how must these people feel as they walk down the main shopping precinct? They would not only feel different physically, but are treated as if they are a lesser and unimportant part of society. Australia is such a multicultural country and this socially isolated community in Melbourne is one of thousands of similar communities throughout all the capital cities.
As parents we desire to model to our children what it truly means to embrace cultural diversity and to teach them that it doesn't matter where we were born or where our parents come from. We all deserve to be loved, to be embraced, to have needs met, to have our heritage recognised and to most of all have the opportunity to come to know Jesus Christ. The Bible says, 'There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.' Galatians 3 verse 28.
God does not see culture or difference as a barrier to knowing Him. When those who belong to Christ are in heaven, the Bible talks about it being one big multicultural celebration: 'After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!"' Revelation 7: verses 9-10.
My desire would be to see our children raised in an environment where the Bible view of culture is embraced but also lived out, and genuinely shared with those around us who perhaps feel isolated because of how our 'Australian way' can make them feel. For now, my boys are trying to discover where in this world the Philippines is…..
Laura Veloso is wife to John and the mother of 3 young boys. She is trained in child welfare and primary school teaching and has experience in overseas missions and youth leadership.