The world is a vast and diverse place. It is separated by rivers and oceans, and mountains and caverns – and by differing ideologies and belief systems. There are as many ideologies and belief systems as there are people, regions and cultures of the world. The world uses these differing ideologies to divide itself on such topics as class, religion, and politics – among other things. We divide ourselves into haves and have-nots, into what’s right and wrong, who’s better or lesser than, and who’s good and evil. We fail to realize as citizens of the human race that we can find and build upon common ground if we are brave enough to embrace and value our diversity, rather than make the world a battle of “us” versus “them”.
Guilford College’s Peace and Conflict Studies department hosted a panel: Hopes & Horrors: Revolution, War and Prospects for Peace in the Middle East panel. The panel was a mixed group of six people who have lived, worked, visited and/or studied the Middle East. Four of the panelists were Guilford College faculty members; Max Carter, Eric Mortensen, Jeremy Rinker, and Robert Duncan. Amal Khoury from the Peace and Conflict Studies department moderated the event. Each panelist brought information to the discussion that not only informed the people in attendance, but helped all of us to view relationships between people, nations and cultures and gave ideas on how each and every citizen of the world can work toward building a more inclusive world culture.
One of the panelists grew up in Israel. She summed up the entire event for me when she said, “I really want to live in Peace. I think everyone does, but we have all grown cynical.” Collectively as citizens of the world I think we have all lost hope that peace can prevail. We seem to have forgotten that we are a world full of mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, and brothers and sisters. Some of us are marathon runners, some of us are world travelers, and some of us love pizza while others prefer sushi. We smile when we’re happy and cry when we’re not. The things that separate me from you and you from me is designed by flawed human beings – but in the end we are all motivated by our passions and dreams. We all have hopes for a better tomorrow for our children’s children. The only way we can make that happen is if we all somehow, make that a collective dream by focusing on the things that unite us rather than divide us.
Just because we live in a society where we turn away from the things we don’t want to see doesn’t mean it goes away – it just means that it is being ignored. We live in a world where multiculturalism is a dirty word. It’s a world where people throw themselves into an uproar because their kid went on “winter break” on December 21st instead of Christmas vacation. And sadder yet, we live in a world where people who demand that others tell them “Merry Christmas” instead of happy holidays – but refuses to say “Happy Hanukkah” to their Jewish neighbor. We want everyone to understand us and our culture without giving the same courtesy in return. We are given opportunity after opportunity to embrace diversity – but time and time again we choose ignorance. From the panel, the most important thing I took away from the panelists is that, there’s still hope for a world open to diversity, but we have to step up and open our hearts. Peace out.