Accepting Cultural Diversity

Although we hear the occasional horror story about how someone, on account of their race, origin or religious beliefs, is discriminated against, the truth is that globalization (however we view it) is thrusting acceptance upon us.

In Bulgaria, for example, the civil war in Syria resulted in a wave of immigrants from that ravaged country.  Bulgaria, a country of roughly eight million mostly older people, and virtually devoid of population with a 0.6 population growth rate 1, is now facing the prospect of new faces from faraway places (e.g., Syria, Algeria and Russia for example), some of different faiths than the predominant Bulgarian Orthodox religion.

I heard a story in which villagers, all of whom were seniors, pulled out their rifles when they heard that refugees of a different religion would be forcibly settled in their village.  ‘What will happen?’ I asked, deeply concerned about such a violent reaction.  ‘The gendarmerie will become involved.’

Acceptance vs. Resistance

We cannot stop change.  We must accept that there are certain forces at work that are beyond our control.  As hard as it is for some of us to accept that our world has changed and continues to change, from a psychological perspective, acceptance is healthier than resistance.

Breaking the barriers of difference

There are civilized ways of dealing with difference.  Diplomacy, communication, civility, an open mind and a welcoming heart.

A personal example

My family moved from Toronto, Canada to Champaign, Illinois when I was a child.  As a youngster, I did not travel well and do not remember crossing the border on account of the suppository my parents gave me.

It was not a direct route since, first, I graduated from Mrs. Armitage’s kindergarten in Toronto and, later, completed first grade in Madison, Wisconsin.  As soon as we arrived in Champaign, my mother was befriended by the late Eloise Wachala, a poet, who introduced her to the C-U International Women’s Group.  Through this group, Mother met many wonderful women who subsequently became her friends.

This open, welcoming and accepting way is beautiful.  It is the opposite of fear, suspicion and discrimination.  This open, beautiful way is what made America the culturally diverse nation it is today.

After centuries of wars, conquests and oppression, we cannot entirely blame the older Bulgarian villagers for their deep mistrust of foreigners.  We need to keep things in perspective in that regard.  Nevertheless, let us open the door for change by acknowledging that times have changed.  Wars are mostly economic these days and immigrants have much to offer from professional expertise to culinary delights.

Green Nuances

Image title:  ‘Green Nuances.’

Description: On the outskirts of Raduil, Bulgaria.

Photographer:  Luba Rascheff


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