I live in Purcellville, Virginia. It is a small, rural town surrounded by farmland and pastures. The community is relatively small but slowly growing. Reflecting upon my community, I realized Purcellville lacks religious and cultural diversity. Virginia is predominately Christian and Protestant, and in my town specifically, most people are either Catholic or Baptist. I grew up not knowing a lot about other religions and cultures, mainly because the diversity within schools and the community were dominated by Catholics and Baptists.
It is important to stress that the people of Purcellville, VA are some of the nicest and most welcoming people on Earth, and are in no way discriminatory towards other religions or ethnicities.
I think the lack of religious diversity within Purcellville speaks volumes about how we can progress toward a more diverse community. Someone who is Buddhist may find that they feel different, or “other”, not because they aren’t welcomed, but because there isn’t a large Buddhist community or culture present within Purcellville. My town has three Churches, a Catholic church, a Baptist church, and a Mormon church, the closest Buddhist monastery, Wat Yarnna Rangsee, is over thirty minutes out of town, in Sterling VA. With this in mind, it is easy to understand how someone who does not share the same religious beliefs as the general community of a small town might feel as if they are an outsider. I feel a sense of community within my catholic church, but someone who doesn’t have a place of worship in Purcellville may have a harder time finding a community close to home and may be considered “other”.
Purcellville is steadily growing. From when I was a kid, our town has not only grown in terms of population and infrastructure, but modernization. I think that with modernization comes diversity, and in a town such as Purcellville, I think we should build monastaries, synagogues, and mosques, as well as plenty of other religious places of worship and culture so that people can come to Purcellville and feel comfortable with themselves and their religious beliefs. In the coming years, I hope that Purcellville not only expands but brings in more diversity so that we may experience the wonderful cultures that everyone has to share.
I admire and am grateful for the religious and cultural diversity at Dickinson College. Throughout my freshman year, I learned so much about people, their culture, religions, where they lived, and whether or not they were international students. I’ve had dinners that are inspired by other countries and traditions. Dickinson does a really good job in that there is plenty of diversity on campus, yet nobody seems to be outcast or “other”.
Religion has a very powerful influence on international affairs. Foreign policies are heavily influenced by the religious views and beliefs of policymakers. Religious communities also promote peace and reconciliation to oppose repression or discrimination. I think religion is important in international affairs because it helps us with intercultural communication and exposes us to the beauty of culture and religion.