I was disheartened after reading an otherwise wonderful article on faith in the latest issue of the PAW. I have worked on Princeton’s campus for 14 years as the executive director of Manna Christian Fellowship, one of the religious groups referenced in this article. The sole description given of Manna was the following: “made up mostly of Asian-Americans.”
While the other organizations were described in terms of activities and the contributions they bring to the community, the author chose to use race as the exclusive description of Manna, with no further qualifications in the entire article. While Manna’s constituents are mostly of Asian descent, the organization consists of African-Americans, Latino-Americans, Caucasians, and international students from Europe, Africa, and Asia. Manna’s focus is “developing and engaging a gospel worldview,” a phrase reiterated at the weekly meetings of 70 to 90 students. Manna is not an ethnic ministry, and describing the ministry in this fashion alienates our constituents and wrongly labels the organization.
As one of the larger chaplaincies, Manna sponsors hundreds of events on campus, such as public lectures, a charity 5K Justice Run, and community-service projects. To stimulate reflective dialogue, Manna initiated a Christian journal, called Revisions, four years ago. Students have had hour-long, daily prayer meetings since 2002 to pray for students, alumni, and world concerns. They hold regional alumni gatherings around the world, including an annual alumni conference. Yet none of these things was mentioned in the PAW article.
It is sad that an article rightly celebrating religious diversity shows we still have far to go in breaking through superficial evaluations. What ought to characterize people and organizations is not merely ethnicity, but the actions and contributions they bring to make their community great.