Who’s afraid of diversity?

Building peace means sometimes being uncomfortable. It requires listening to the other side with respect and being civil when telling others about your beliefs. Peace often means compromise, allowing differences to exist side by side. This can be uncomfortable and it can also be freeing and expansive.

Agree with Me

City of Toronto's Coat of Arms and MottoMany proverbs tell us that this diversity worth perusing: “united we stand, divided we fall” (Aesop); “alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” (Helen Keller); and “diversity our strength,” the motto of the City of Toronto (soon to be my home).

I was recently shaken by a discussion with someone about interdenominational Christian nonprofits. He works for a non-denominational organization but was concerned about working with Spirit in Action because I didn’t agree with his interpretation of a particular bible verse. That he wanted to limit his interactions based on beliefs, albeit sharing the foundation of our mutual Christian faith, shocked me.

I understood that for him, to “agree to disagree” on a point of faith would necessarily mean compromise and, therefore, loss; that this compromise of beliefs would make a group weaker. However, I have found that requiring everyone to agree on specific, narrow rules does not bring strength. Welcoming multiple views breeds flexibility and trust, rather than shutting conversation down with only one way to view things.

Diversity our Strength

SIA local coordinators from all over Africa sing together in Kenya

SIA local coordinators from all over Africa sing together in Kenya

The strength of Spirit in Action is bringing people together from many different traditions for a higher good overall rather than separating people along dogmatic lines.

In fact, our missions of compassion and social justice require us to see God in all people and to serve our neighbor as we serve God. This also frees us all to do our work of fostering prosperity, rather than spend energy forcing people to believe a specific doctrine. This openness then actively encourages personal exploration of each person’s relationship and path with God.

When I visited SIA partners in Malawi last summer, I asked about the variety of denominations represented in the group. “SIA is the one place where Catholics and Protestants come together,” was the answer I got from Canaan Gondwe, the local Small Business Fund Coordinator. This response brought a sense of pride. Inter-denominational collaboration allows each person to respond to the call to seek justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with their God, rather than the call to shun those who are different.

Spirit in Action local coordinators; building peace

Similarly, Benoit Malenge, the Small Business Fund Coordinator in Rwanda, reported that people of many beliefs came together, “sharing a meal, without discrimination since they are all members of Spirit in Action, who came to share the gifts.” This place of openness brought a community together, beginning to build peace after years of war in the area.

In the end, let’s stay focused on our mission, remembering the words of John Comenius, a 17th century philosopher, “Let us have but one end in view, the welfare of humanity; and let us put aside all selfishness in consideration of language, nationality, or religion.” Can we be comfortable with this, and proceed as the peacemakers we were called to be?

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7 Responses to “Who’s afraid of diversity?”

  1. Diane Bush March 6, 2012 11:07 am
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    Beautifully written Tanya – thank you!

  2. Boyd March 6, 2012 11:52 am
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    “I have found that requiring everyone to agree on specific, narrow rules does not bring strength. Welcoming multiple views breeds flexibility and trust, rather than shutting conversation down with only one way to view things.”

    Couldn’t agree more! Thanks Tanya

  3. Donna Thomas March 6, 2012 3:18 pm
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    That is one AWESOME post Tanya! That diversity brings expansion is a wonderful concept.

  4. marsha johnson March 7, 2012 2:29 pm
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    I celebrate Spirit in Action’s diversity, and would love to see this loving-kindness continue to broaden and expand. Thank you for your thoughtful message, Tanya.
    Blessings all around,
    Marsha

  5. Lana Runyan March 7, 2012 3:44 pm
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    Hi Tanya,
    Great comments. It is what we must strive for and, as imperfect as we are, there are going to be struggles. So keeping focused on “the Truth” and always conscious of our words and actions, we will attain as much unity as we can this side of heaven.

    Go Toronto!!

    Lana

  6. Charly Morgan March 26, 2013 3:52 pm
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    ‘A higher good overall rather than separating….’ This is an amazingly timely and profound piece….. Thank you Tanya for keeping us challenged…. And for exposing us to those are ‘living it out’

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  1. What's one "small thing" I can do for peace? | Spirit in Action International - January 28, 2014

    […] spiritual development, with the understanding that faith takes many forms. In 2012, I wrote a post about the importance of diversity for building peace and creating a better world for all. ”The strength of Spirit in Action is […]

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