One of the privileges of life here is being able to get to know the people in this group. For example, a quick ten minute chat with Kuhan ended up as a two hour journey, in which international politics was never too far away.
Kuhan’s life crosses cultures, and one soon senses that he negotiates between them with ease and a certain panache. He was born in Colombo in Sri Lanka in 1976, of Tamil parents. A civil conflict has ravaged Sri Lanka for over twenty five years broadly based on differences in language, religion and ethnic origin.
When he was 5, his parents brought him to the UK for his schooling, intending to return shortly afterwards. However, in 1983 there were riots which ignited existing tensions between the Tamil minority and Sinhalese majority and so began the civil war. His parents thus remained in the UK, his father taking a job as a consultant psychiatrist.
Both his parents are Hindus, without being wholly committed. During his teenage years, Kuhan’s spiritual search took him beyond his immediate culture. He went with his parents to Billy Graham’s mission to London in 1989. The Christian Union at school was very influential, and it was a visiting group from Toronto who led him to a commitment. This was not easy for his parents who feared he was being brainwashed, so for a long time his faith was very private, known only to a few close friends.
After school he went to New York for two years, to work for a London-based jewellers. While there he enjoyed the freedom of being able to worship in a church without having to hide it! On his return, he decided to study Natural Sciences in Durham, which he described as a ‘lovely time’: he clearly made his mark, becoming President of the university’s debating society, and chair of his college Junior Common Room. One of the other highlights was being part of a homegroup of a local church, and enjoying the normality of being in someone’s home, even for short times.
After a couple of years working in London, Kuhan decided to follow up an emerging interest of his, and re-trained as a chartered counselling psychologist, which he took to doctoral level. Here his cultural streams crossed again. Mental health workers who work with victims of trauma may experience secondary trauma, and he researched this by interviewing those caught up in the civil war and tsunami in Sri Lanka.
Kuhan’s call to ministry also began to emerge at this time, and he was surprised by the welcome he received in exploring this – nevertheless this is what has led him back to Durham. Not surprisingly he sees his future ministry combining both his training as a psychologist and as an ordained priest.
Meanwhile, he is about to get married! He was originally introduced to Christine by a friend of his, who was her cousin (in Sri Lankan culture it is normally the parents who make the introductions). They will have an English wedding this April.