Cultural diversity, Freedom, Freedom of Religion or Belief, Human dignity, Minority Rights, Personal meaning, Perspective, The world around us

The Dignity of Difference

One thing I’ve learned from my many years of travelling is that while all humans undoubtedly are very similar in many ways, they are all also very different. Too often in Human rights work and Peace work I’ve noticed a tendency to over-emphasize the similarities and downplay the differences. It is as if by acknowledging the differences we would in some way automatically add fuel to the fire of conflicts based on differences. But, what if we were to change our perspective and look at difference, not as a threat, but as a possible resource: a resource for new and creative ways of addressing common challenges.

Taking up just this challenge, Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth from 1991 to 2013, has written an inspiring book entitled, The Dignity of Difference:How to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations. Today I’d like to share some of the thoughts and questions I picked up from this book as well as some thought-provoking quotes.



“Too often in today’s world, groups speak to themselves, not to one another: Jews to Jews, Christians to fellow Christians, Muslims to Muslims, business leaders, economists and global protesters to their respective constituencies. The proliferation of channels of communication – email, chat-groups, the Internet, online journals, and the thousands of cable and satellite television channels – mean that we no longer broadcast. We narrowcast. Gone are the days where people of different views were forced to share an arena and thus meet and reason with their opponents. Today, we can target those who agree with us and screen out the voices of dissent.”

How can we create unity without conformity?

Can difference (diversity) be a source of value?

The twentieth century in many ways was dominated by the politics of ideology. The first part of the twenty-first century in many ways is dominated by the politics of identity.

A shared experience and challenge for much of humankind is how to maintain identity as a minority

When religion is invoked as a justification for conflict, religious voices must be raised in protest.

“War speaks to our most fundamental identity: there is an ‘us’ and ‘them’ and no possibility of confusing them.”

“War appears to be as old as mankind, but peace is a modern invention.”

“… we need to search – each faith in its own way – for a way of living with, and acknowledging the integrity of, those who are not of our faith. Can we make space for difference?”

“Difference does not diminish; it enlarges the sphere of human possibilities.”

Only when we realize the danger of wishing that everyone should be the same – the same faith on the one hand, the same McWorld on the other – will we prevent the clash of civilizations, born of the sense of threat and fear. We will learn to live with diversity once we understand the God-given, world-enhancing dignity of difference.”


Words of wisdom to ponder and meditate on :-).


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