Why We Still Have Hope for 2020
Publication Date: February 2020
The Global Centre for Pluralism, a Canadian institution building respect for diversity around the globe, highlighted a number of these trends with their recent Global Pluralism Awards.
By celebrating the actions of these individuals and organizations with the world, we can uncover new knowledge and generate innovative approaches to the challenges we all face. We will not advance wider social progress, and we cannot counter exclusion, unless we practice the ‘diplomacy of knowledge’ in this way – across disciplines, borders and differences.
For instance, a cross border network of teachers is leading the way in the Balkans to help students address the painful and controversial history of the 1990s Yugoslav wars.
Another inspiring example is Zohra, Afghanistan’s first all-female orchestra created by the Afghanistan National Institute of Music, and led by 23-year old, Negin Khpalwak, the country’s first female conductor. Under Taliban rule, music was completely banned and women had few educational opportunities. Now, Zohra is being invited to play around the world.
In Lebanon, an NGO, the Adyan Foundation, has launched a series of online videos showing people from different religions interacting together and learning about one another’s faiths. In its first year, the videos reached 38 million people. In a country where religion has often divided people, Adyan’s work to break down cultural and religious barriers and promote openness to others is crucial to building peace.
The French organization SINGA has created an online platform, CALM, where French citizens can sign up to host a recently arrived refugee in their home for between 3 to 12 months. In actions familiar to many Canadians, over 2,000 people have helped house refugees this way, and in the process, made lifelong friendships. This is a hopeful example of everyday people creating welcoming communities, when the daily headlines about Europe tend to focus on xenophobia and divisiveness across the continent.
Many of these organizations and individuals – all recipients of the Global Pluralism Award – have until now been working in virtual darkness, with few resources and little recognition, often at the risk of violent backlash. There is a new urgency for this to change.
In Canada, it is easy to get complacent. We live in a country that generally accepts that our social fabric is enriched by the existence of a multitude of cultures, languages, and faiths. While recognizing that there are gaps and failures that must be addressed on a daily basis, overall, we are proud and celebrate our nation’s multicultural character. This is not the case in many parts of the world. And we know this to be true: diversity is a fact, but inclusion is an act.
Hugh McLennan’s Voices in Time talked about the diligent work involved in cultivating a garden and the important work of the gardener: “a civilization is like a garden cultivated in a jungle. As flowers and vegetables grow from cultivated seeds, so do civilizations grow from carefully studied, diligently examined ideas and perceptions. In nature, if there are no gardeners, the weeds that need no cultivation take over the garden and destroy it.”
To ensure 2020 changes for the better, let us commit to find the skilled gardeners in our midst, to thank them, and to ask: how can I help?