Three-quarters of the world’s major conflicts have a cultural dimension. | wikipedia


To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law (I Corinthians 9:20)

May 21 is a day dedicated by the United Nations to celebrate cultural diversity for dialogue and development. The history of these celebrations dates back to 2001 when “UNESCO adopted the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity and in December 2002, the UN General Assembly, in its resolution 57/249, declared May 21 to be the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.” ( What is the contribution of culture to dialogue and sustainable development? This is the underpinning question behind these celebrations. What is culture? The discourse on culture is approached differently by people of different academic backgrounds and this makes it difficult to reach an agreed definition. However, what is clear is the etymology of the word, ´culture´.

According to Tucker, “it is derived from the Latin word 'cultura' derived from the verb 'colo' meaning 'to tend', 'to cultivate' and 'to till' (1931). On this word the object 'ager' meaning field, farm, land, estate, park, soil, terrain, territory, and country may be added to form the word 'agriculture'. In this article I will adopt Kroeber and Parsons' definition of culture as “transmitted and created content and patterns of values, ideas, and other symbolic-meaningful systems as factors in the shaping of human behaviour.” (1958:583). Culture therefore consists of ways of thinking, feeling and reacting. It consists of the ways we feed, produce and preserve food, dress, communicate, and relate with one another. In summary, culture defines the worldviews of a particular community.

As we celebrate the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, how do we do pastoral care in a multicultural context? The world has become a global village where a single residential street can be composed of people from more than ten nationalities. This is equally true of Mallorca, a tourist hub where the entire world converges. This is also true of the church of today with its membership composed of people of different cultural background. Carrying pastoral care in such a context requires a multicultural approach.

What do we mean by pastoral care? The term has its etymology from ancient shepherds tending their flock in the pastures. Jesus in the Gospel of John then used the shepherd image to refer to his ministry to the world. It is from such background that the term ´Pastoral Care´ is used to refer to the practices of pastors in caring for the local congregation and individuals. This includes aspects such as hospital visits, visiting the elderly, pastoral counselling, funerals, premarital counselling, praying with the members of the church, preaching, teaching, and administration of sacraments. Doing pastoral care in multicultural context is not an easy thing but at the same time an indispensable requirement for contextually relevant pastoral care. The apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 9: 20 gives us a simple framework of how to carry pastoral care in a multicultural context. He became everything to everyone in order to minister effectively to all the communities he preached to. This explains why his outreach work was the most successful as compared to other apostles like Peter who struggled with adapting to foreign cultures. He became everything to everyone not in terms of sinning but in terms of adapting to peoples´ cultures while in the same way adding Christian values to them.

Therefore, as we celebrate the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, we need to understand the cultural diversities that surround us and find ways of adapting to these diversities. It is such an approach that will help us remain pastorally relevant in a multicultural context. I will conclude with a beautiful prayer from Jean Smith: May I mindfully appreciate the diversity of every being I encounter, who, like flowers, brings beauty, variety, and sustenance to our world. Amen.