Gabor Vincze (UWC AC, Teacher and Head of physics department)
Religion and culture are very strongly interconnected, yet, it takes a bit of thinking to realise to what extent religious traditions are part of our lives whether we consider ourselves religious or not. We should never stop saying that the most important condition for world peace is international understanding, most of which is intercultural and interfaith understanding. Intercultural and interfaith communication, focused on the aim of our mission, is a great deal more than informative novelty an international community can bring together by chance. The UWC-s are international by design and it is desirable that their communities are proactive and do not just let things happen.
In most activities and service sessions the emphasis is on all of us being human and similar in many ways independently of where we are from.However, it is also our job to present our differences and celebrate them but I do not see this happen every day at Atlantic College. I am therefore delighted to see the Interfaith Conference back as one of the mission periods. This is the occasion when the members of our community feel they can share a part of them with the rest. When I am privileged to see the Muslim pray or the Jewish sing I realise how different their world is and we need to be reminded of this difference on a regular basis. When the Sikh girl reads from the holy book of her faith she opens her world for you and gives you access to her fragile soul that is hidden and invisible otherwise. You need this experience, student and staff, to realise how one-sided and overwhelmingly western is the environment we are living in. This occasion is a real celebration of difference. This is the occasion when many students show their real selves and let their voices heard. There is only one more event during the academic year when I feel touched this way and it is the International Show followed by the flag ceremony. For me these two events are the core of the UWC experience.
Your tolerance towards other cultures and faiths was a precondition when you came here. Tolerance is a first step but is certainly not enough in life as it might prevent you from acting violently but does allow antipathy or even hatred. You need the understanding of the importance of some, for you uncommon, things in other people`s life and you learn a great deal from others in the two years you spend here. The conference has hopefully contributed to your understanding and has inspired you to learn even more.