Preventing violent conflict

Campaigning against Islamophobia.

One of my favourite mediums for advocacy is spoken word. This video, which comes courtesy of The Koranist, shows how powerful poetry can be in changing perspectives. And in honour of it being National Poetry Month (in America at least), I thought I’d share it with you.

In my day-to-day work I collaborate a lot with religious communities – pastors and imams, including some international faith leaders, but also ordinary people of faith who are inspired to serve their communities as best they can. This could be by providing basic services like health or education. Or in places where there are conflicts or crises, by working as mediators, counsellors and aid workers.

These friends of mine have taught me a lot about religious tolerance. In particular, they’ve taught me that an important part of tolerance is understanding, which is why religious literacy is key.

And there is cause for optimism here, because I’m starting to think that Generation Y might be doing better on this score than our forebears did. Studies have found that while we’re less fond of being affiliated with religious institutions, we’re actually much more inquisitive about political and religious issues. A lot of us also live in more multi-religious societies (although in some places the reverse is true and young people are growing up in more segregated communities than ever). Maybe these things combined make us less likely to see boundaries where there are none, and more likely to transcend them where they exist. We can live in hope.

Faith’s a very personal thing of course, I get that. I’m not suggesting that we all become believers, some of us simply aren’t. But we do all have a responsibility to educate ourselves about the faiths of others, just as we should be aware of other people’s cultures. That’s why I really like this video. The mystery woman (anyone know who she is?) explains the basic tenants of Islam. She’s also spot on in her arguments that Christians, Muslims and Jews have more to unite them than divide them:

Thought to be different by everyone…but He is the same…called by different names… that came… with different dialects…which I respect…because I protect…the unity of religious communities…because you and me are separate leaves on one tree, one entity, like legs to a centipede…Allah says to me your a pedigree…from prophets Ishmael and Isaac… brothers from another mother why do we fight it…You are my Siamese twin…where I end and you begin…

It’s great advocacy and great wordsmith wizardry. The only downside is that if you read the comments below the video you might get a bit dejected. But then again, I guess it shows why the video is important. And you could always scroll through disliking the most idiotic comments for instant feel-better factor (and good karma).

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