by: Nardos Tekle
There are 196 countries in the world today, approximately 7,000 languages, and apart from the major world religions, there are hundreds of other religions and lifestyles practiced by the 7 billion individuals inhabiting earth. Despite the fact that these numbers are estimates that undergo continuous updating, they reveal something important about our world. Namely diversity. Although some believe that diversity contributes in strengthening society and creating success, many argue that diversity is the root cause of conflict. Diversity opponents on the other hand claim that in a world of diversity, conflict is inevitable. What does this mean for peace?
My feelings on this issue are mixed. On the one hand, I agree that diversity has throughout history caused a lot pain. A lot of blood has been shed due to people’s inability to deal with and accept the cultural diversity around them. The wars in the Middle East and the most recent Syrian civil war are only a few examples of the sad realization that humans still to this very day, struggle to coexist without conflict due to the inability to cope with diversity. On the other hand, I don’t entirely believe that conflict and warfare are inevitable due to diversity. All previous and ongoing warfare due to diversity have a loud a clear message. Forcefully imposing one’s ideologies and theories about life is not going to make the world a better place. What about the basic human rights that each individual is entitled to? This message in my opinion seems to be repeatedly ignored and thus contributing to the failure to learn form the past, history repeating itself, and the devastating and heartbreaking consequences we are surrounded by.
In my opinion, embracing diversity is the key to attaining peace and creating a better world for ourselves. Of course, many will probably disagree with my opinion by emphasizing that conflict and warfare are issues far too complex to be settled by one simple solution – the same solution that many consider to be the cause of conflict. Sometimes, we search very hard for answers and solutions that are right in front of us. Yes, I personally believe that the one solution, the key to attaining peace is as simple as understanding that diversity is not the enemy of peace. Attempting to change and influence people (usually by forceful means) that differ in appearance, belief or lifestyle, is what threatens peace.
We are quick to judge and avoid people who are different from us, and we base our knowledge on stereotypes. We label people who fail or refuse to abide by our rules, beliefs, and lifestyles, as: “the enemy”. This is the world we have created for ourselves. Neighbors killing each other because of their religious views or ethnicity, and prejudice and discrimination have become defense mechanisms. Considering the fact that our diversities are a part our identities and make us all unique, its only natural to be willing to go to great lengths to protect our identities. But putting aside our diversity for a moment, we as humans all strive to be happy and fulfilled in life.
I personally believe that world peace can only be attained once we learn to eliminate our ethnocentric mindsets, and embrace and appreciate the beauty of diversity that exists in our world. Perhaps countries in dispute could make the effort to embrace the diversity they are exposed to, as a method to settle their differences rather than use violence. Perhaps if all the nations that are at war against each other put as much effort into learning about other nations and embracing their diversity, a great deal of pain and disaster would be avoid in our world.
I am not claiming that embracing diversity is something that can be done overnight. No, it will take time, dedication and the honest willingness to accept and understand the people we come across and their diversity. Perhaps inviting that one neighbor in your neighborhood with a different background or religion from yours to your house for a cup of tea is a great place to start. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”