Over last few weeks, we saw how popular media has been covering the story of conversion of Sri Lankan second generation Muslim girl. Youtube and facebook has been at the heart of this controversy. Here are some links – TIME, ABC News, and Fox News. She even has an URL after her name – www.rifqabary.com
Listen to her testimony on youtube.
This has turn into legal battle between Christianity & Islam – high powered lawayers and another culture war in Florida. She is a minor (17 years old only) and parents are trying to get her back to Ohio. Abuse/threat, custody battle with religious conversion makes this potent news item and controversy.
I want to share some reflections on second generation and youth work. South Asians who are born and raised outside of South Asian cultural context, particularly in the West are less committed to the faith of their parents. I have heard from Hindu temple authorities and priests that second generations are not involved in puja and religious activities like their parents. Same is true of South Asian muslims and sikhs. It is true of South Asian Christians as well, they are less likely subscribe to the traditional Christianity of their parents.
The westernized and secularized second generation are more likely to be drawn to Jesus Christ to fill their spiritual quest. The vibrant Christian churches and ministries are able to fill this gap. But only some are turning to Jesus, while most second generation are getting sucked into American materialism and promiscuity. They are neither able to relate to faith of their forefathers nor embrace the faith of people in this land.
Immigrant parents are busy trying to make a living and create security for themselves that they are clueless about their children’s spiritual struggles. They are treated as little and not knowledgable, but they pursue non-conventional means to explore deeper life issues, including technology. For parents religious rituals were enough, but children are deeply spiritual and disillusioned by immigrant cultural relgiosity.
This also highlights the crucial nature of youthwork in immigrant churches. Mere religious socialization is not enough for the second generation. The goal should not be turn kids into nice Indian (read malayali, tamil, gujurati, telugu etc) [or Sri Lankan or Pakistani for that matter] nor fine Catholic, Syrian Christian or Pentecostal, but a transformational experience through an encounter with the living God.