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Last week Hope College held the Critical Issues Symposium (CIS). Over 30 symposiums have been held throughout the years on a range of topics, meant to introduce thought-provoking and stimulating presentations by experts to help students and community members grow. After attending most of the lectures this year, I would highly recommend taking advantage of the opportunity Hope is offering, but in no way are any of the events mandatory for students (unless assigned by a class). This year’s topic corresponded well with on-going political and worldly news: Exploring Islam.
With over 1.5 billion Muslims in our world today, it’s important for us to take a step back and remember that the world is rich in diversity, traditions, and customs. My favorite presentation was the opening keynote session with Dr. Reza Aslan on the topic of Islamophobia.
The easiest way to describe a community is to describe it against something else
No matter what we’re trying to comprehend, we often compare religions, traditions, and cultures against our own. Oftentimes, this becomes a very negative exercise if you’re not open to understanding how someone else views the world.
- We fear the “other” people. Maybe not because they’re different, but because we don’t know anything about them. Therefore, we fear what we do not know.
Starting a vicious cycle, the only way to understand what we aren’t familiar with is to open our minds and hearts to others, which can be very difficult.
- Because of the increasing role of media in our country, bigot statements have shifted from the fringes of society to the mainstream political area.
As discrimination becomes more mainstream, it creeps its way into our regular rhetoric, negatively reinforcing increasing discrimination.
I hope this post has started your mind turning, but let me leave you with this:
The PEW Research Center estimates that within 10 years America will be majority minority individuals. As in, the majority of the population will not be American. Based on that estimate, I encourage you to find out more about the people around you. Dig into the traditions, religions, and day-to-day differences that characterize them as individuals. Absorb their opinions and learn more about why they think the way they do. Surprisingly, if you’re like me, by learning more about others you’ll learn more about yourself.
“We must all hang together, or, assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” Benjamin Franklin
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.