Against hate, understanding. Against division, hope.

I am lucky. I know this. I have had opportunities that many, even in the relatively privileged environment of the UK, do not receive. I have been able to travel and experience a wide variety of cultures and traditions different from my own; meeting people and experiencing things that would never have happened without my fortunate start in life.

From Kenya to Iceland, from Thailand to Lebanon, from Kosovo to the USA; it is my honour to count individuals from all of these countries, and more, as well as many different races and creeds, amongst my friends. To have had the opportunity to immerse myself in the range of adventures which I have, over the three decades I have been on this Earth, is something for which I will be eternally grateful.

My gratitude is not just, though, for the wonderful experiences themselves, or the lifelong friends per se. Rather it is for the deepened understanding, level of tolerance and empathy that I have gained for my fellow citizens of this small world on which will all live.

In early 2016, I was in Brussels as a guest of Julie Ward MEP at the European Commission. While there, I was struck by many things which have remained with me over the turbulent months since. The dedication of the European Civil Service staff; the calm, measured and tolerant debate, in such stark contrast to politics in the UK; and above all the sense that everyone present was working towards one goal: a more peaceful, and prosperous Europe for everyone who lives in it.

Outside the visitor’s entrance of the parliament building, there is a surprisingly small, drab looking block of concrete. It has been painted in bright colours, commemorating an athletics world record, but there is no mistaking what it is: a section of the Berlin Wall.

A section of the Berlin Wall
Once an instrument of division, now a symbol of tolerance and hope.

From having once divided Europe, this small piece of concrete now reminds every last one of the hundreds of thousands of men, women and schoolchildren who visit this place each year of why the values of tolerance, equality and understanding matter so very much.

I know that few have been as lucky as I, to be able to immerse themselves in a range of cultures and countries so varied and vibrant.

But in this new world of migration, of economic crises, and of refugees displaced by war, strife, hatred and terror; often we need only look to the next county, the next city, or even the next street to see diversity which would once only have been visible by travelling the globe.

I live in a country divided; by hate, by fear, by politics, and by economics. There are many reasons for this. But the way out is emphatically not through isolation and cutting ourselves off from each other and the rest of the world.

Why? Because there are more of us than ever on this tiny planet of ours, so we’re going to be living closer together, in more diverse communities, than we ever have before. To make that work, we need to find ways to understand and co-exist alongside one another.

I know from my own experiences how greater understanding leads to greater tolerance and acceptance. In even the most divided cultures and traditions, such as those of Lebanon and Israel, by immersing ourselves in one another’s world, we can learn to live, and love, in peace.

via Daily Prompt: Immerse

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