Walla Walla University began Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage month by holding its first-ever Asian and Pacific Islander-themed vespers, incorporating singers, musicians, and speakers with ethnic roots leading back to a variety of Asian and Pacific Island countries.
This historic event took place on April 30, 2021, and included a welcome, traditional hymns, and scripture readings in Filipino, Samoan, Indonesian, and Japanese.
Matthias Bernard, a junior theology major and University Church student pastor from Hawaii, helped to coordinate the event.“I can say with confidence that Walla Walla University has diversity. But as we build in that diversity, we also must be contributing to inclusivity. We do that by constructing and planning programs such as these to not only practice inclusivity by highlighting specific cultures or specific groups here on campus but to incorporate that into the Walla Walla University culture.”
Bernard acknowledged that the timing of this event was especially significant considering the increase in acts of hate against Asians and Pacific Islanders around the nation today, saying that making diversity and inclusivity the norm is an important step for WWU: “I’m really into this idea of worship and how we can weave worship into society and into our daily lives.”
The speaker for the worship was Rome Ulia, uncle of University student Matania Aiolupotea. Originally from New Zealand, Ulia worked in Australia before moving to the United States in 2020 where he currently serves as the family pastor for the Auburn Adventist Academy Church. He used the story of David and Absalom, as well as stories from his own life, to illustrate how, because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we can be safe in Him.
Bernard is hopeful that there will be many more Asian and Pacific Islander themed vespers in WWU’s future, stressing its importance not only to the Asian and Pacific Islander community, but its importance to the campus as a whole.
Bela Cinco, a freshman psychology and pre-med major, attended the vespers and gave the welcome in Filipino. She said of the program, “As a freshman, I felt really welcome and at home. It was good to have my culture represented and to be around people with similar backgrounds.”
Posted May 19, 2021