I was brought up in “the most multicultural society in the country” – or so I’ve proudly said for the past 10 years of my life. And yes, geographically I do live in a place considered the most multicultural in the world – but is it really?
Whilst there is no doubt that I have grown up with diverse individuals around me, I’ve also witnessed how these diversities are used to divide society. Strange to think how this is even possible, but let me explain.
You see, with all the wonderful features that make us different: our ethnic backgrounds, culture, religion, education, etc. we strangely find a way to ‘group’ ourselves through education systems, societies, and religious institutions – and these ‘groupings’ are how we divide ourselves.
It’s amazing that we live in a society where on one road you have a church, a mosque and a synagogue – but it’s when these communities don’t integrate and when we don’t get to know one another that miscommunications occur. It’s not just institution-based groupings that are the issue, we also must stop grouping ourselves.
Isn’t it great when you meet someone new and you have something in common with them? They understand your cultural background, education, or a passion of yours – but why is it we have this craving to relate so much? I’ve probably fallen prey to this trap myself – having something in common makes conversation easier, but over time I’ve discovered that if you stay in your comfort zone you don’t learn, and you don’t grow.
Many of us love to travel and try new foods, learn about new cultures and experience new things but we fail to learn about the cultures and experiences that surround us through individuals. Whilst my travelling experiences have taught me a lot, it’s always the people who teach me the most. From the Moroccan stall vendor who taught me that Islam is more accepting and much bigger than the ’Islamic names’ he was carving on key chains and to make me think about names differently, to the Greek authorities who taught me the importance of Sunday service and the value of charitable giving in the Christian faith. It wasn’t the mountain views in Morocco or the churches and Greek ruins in Athens that broadened my horizon to think about religion differently. It was the people, their actions, thoughts and conversations. You see, when I say I’ve grown up in the most multicultural society in the world, what I mean to say is that every individual around me has a different background, different experiences and a whole lot to share and learn from.
To grow we must be more open to conversations, to opinions and to people. We must open the doors to the institutions and societies that group us and make us feel at home. We must educate and share our experiences as well as learn and broaden our horizons.
So next time you meet someone new, treat it as an opportunity to learn something new – you never know, it might ignite a passion you never knew existed!