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Respecting diversity paves the way for peace

Diversity is profoundly important in our personal, community, corporate and global contexts.

It is a reality of life.

It is a crucial part of human life in this world, important at all levels locally, regionally, nationally and globally.

When it is valued in any institution, society or community, it requires sensitivity and awareness. 

When diversity is taken into consideration, it offers a community, society, nation or institution moral credibility and opportunity for enrichment at a deeper level.

Diversity refers to any difference in idea, gender, culture, ability or quality of life. These differences generally parallel dimensions of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, political views, social status and religious beliefs.

The concept of diversity is valued as it connects with understanding, respect, love and acceptance. Diversity comprises the understanding that each individual is unique and is to be treated with respect and acceptance.

Understanding moves us to see beyond the surface and simple differences.

We often overlook the importance of understanding and fall into the trap that misleads us into categorizing or generalizing, which leads us to miss the beauty and opportunity for enrichment that comes through diversity.

For example, one of the first false moves in this direction is in relation to issues of race.

We easily fall into the mistake of categorizing race in terms of white or black, Native American, Hispanic or Asian, and fail to acknowledge that there is a great deal of diversity even within each of these categories.

We often assume that “black” represents a similar group or a single ethnic group, without acknowledging the fact that even in a single ethnic group there are a great number of diverse physical types.

Acknowledging diversity means that we must understand that inside the continent of Africa, for example, there are many ethnic groups in different countries, with different languages, cultures, faiths, economic systems, social groups, political viewpoints and life experiences.

When we speak of Europeans, Native Americans, Hispanics or Asians, we usually also forget their diversity.

The problem is that many institutions decide in a systematic and purposeful way to overlook or ignore the reality of diversity.

Therefore, it is important to study the concept of diversity more seriously.

If we want to help our communities and institutions, it is necessary to explore our differences in a safe, positive, loving and nurturing environment.

Diversity then, is about understanding each other and moving beyond simple tolerance to embrace and celebrate the rich dimensions contained within the complexity of each institution, community, culture or individual.

Love, if brought together with diversity, can produce mutual love and caring.

When groups of different cultures work together, being aware of diversity can prompt deeper engagement with critical thinking and can invoke the spirit of working together.

Because people from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds or different abilities bring cognitive friction that challenge, conflict with or complement each other, people’s thinking and understanding can improve, and the process of dialogue across differences can benefit everyone.

Awareness of diversity can add positive qualities into any institution, such as involving people who have broad and open minds, people who are informed, kind, reasonable, humble and have proper appreciation of differences.

In contrast, when an institution ignores diversity, negative qualities continue to exist, such as being arrogant, closed-minded, unreasonable, uninformed and intolerant.

Acknowledging with respect the reality of diversity in any institution or society can pave a way towards developing institutions and society to function in harmony and peace with everyone treated equally.

In this process, we will help create a right relationship with others and with God, a space where love, equality and respect can emerge.

Ikani Fakasiieiki

Contributing editor

Copyright © May 2016 - The Fig Tree