This past week the International Justice Mission hosted Freedom Week at Milligan College. On Wednesday evening the group held a talk an interracial relationships in the Village Jeanes Room. Many Milligan students attended the event.
Many Milligan students attended the event, which included an open talk with a panel of three interracial couples. They spoke on their experiences while they have been together, the reactions or responses they received from their wider communities, and the joys and challenges they face every day.
The couples included recent alumni Paidaiwanashe and Christina Mushayamunda who have been married 10 months, Kari and Eric Patton of Calvary Church who have been married 24 years and have six children, and Milligan students Sue Harrod and Gabe Logan who have been dating two and a half years.
The event was co-hosted by Brianna Tuscani, a Milligan student. Tuscani volunteered to help with the event as IJM’s values, especially “freedom for all” is something she believes in. She opened the event and challenged the audience to have an open mind, setting the tone for the evening by saying the “expectations are life killers” and we should be wary of them.
Each couple had different experiences. There seemed to be a generational shift toward race.
The immediate families of the Mushayamundas, Logan and Harrod had been more open to accepting their relationships, but the Pattons faced some challenges in the beginning, stemming from Eric’s mother’s initial dislike of Kari. Harrod’s grandmother had been the person most closed minded about her relationship with Logan.
The couples highlighted that we are all a “product of where we come from,” but that does not define us like our choices and how we choose to act do.
Racism is often viewed as white supremacy, however the feeling can work both ways. Eric Patton said his mother thought it was “degrading for him to date a white girl.” Her view however has come to change and now his mother has come to love and would defend Kari in every way.
The couple now mentors others and has found fellowship with Pai and Christina Mushayamunda. They urged a solid foundation with Christ and stressed a community acting like Christ as an ideal society.
The couples also noted “love as genuine,” and highlighted love as the reason for their lasting relations. They said, like any relationship, it isn’t easy and requires work. They highlighted a phrase people have come to use, “I don’t see color,” as inaccurate. Pai Mushayamunda stressed that color exists and rather than ignore it we should embrace and learn from one another. Pai and Christina Mushayamunda share in culture and “humanity” as they enjoy doing things together.
All the couples were open to all the questions directed at them. It became clear that the couples were drawn to each other’s personalities, and they highlighted communication as key. For Logan and Harrod, it was her sister being in the hospital that solidified their closeness. They had to “work on [their] communication” with each other especially in the beginning to get to know one another.
Most students found the event insightful and interesting as seen by the attentiveness throughout and the encouraging noises in response to comments and stories shared. An eruption of conversations and loud atmosphere at the end showed the event had provoked thought.
Several students, however, pointed out that all the couples included Caucasian women and African American men and said it would have added value if the event included at least one couple where this was the other way around so that the perspectives could be a little more diverse.
Praise Gichuru, the IJM president at Milligan, feels strongly about IJM and works on campus to build awareness for the cause. She was happy with how the interracial relationships event turned out. Milligan is a small community but racial tension is a larger issue that causes tension worldwide, and such events create awareness in a larger context.
The event centered on a Bible quote that is fitting as a lasting take on the event. The verse is Galatians 5:1 and reads, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
In the context of the event it meant do not come to be limited by ignorance; be open minded and embrace the diversity God has created so that we can come to live in peaceful community.