The time when diversity was a mere ideology has long passed. In the modern era, diversity is our reality. People of all colors, faiths and creeds are living side-by-side in societies across the world — nowhere more so than here in the USA.
Those who rail against diversity as an ideology are behind the times. They have not yet accepted the truth of what has happened. Some are trying to turn back the tide, but the tide will not turn. We are living in a pluralistic society. The only question is whether or not we are going to make this new reality work for all of us.
For people who have been brought up to believe that diversity is an ideology, resistance is understandable. They believe that they are preserving their way of life by railing against the changes. “Why can’t it be like it’s always been?” they ask. The answer is simple. We cannot go back to the way things were no matter how much we’d like to. We can only move forward. It’s only when we accept diversity as our reality that we can take the next step and start working towards social harmony.
I will concede to that fact that creating harmony in a diverse society is no easy task. It starts with ceasing hostilities and increased tolerance. Then, when everyone does his or her part, it can lead to cooperation and fellowship. Each is a step in the right direction.
A symphony orchestra provides a good example. Orchestral music brings together an array of diverse instruments played by individual musicians, all of whom have come together through practice and dedication to create harmonious melodies. For anyone not familiar with the process, it takes hard work and countless hours of practice. The outcome can sound awfully, to begin with — as anyone remotely associated with beginner bands can attest to — but with practice, harmony can be achieved.
The interfaith community in Austin has shown that. At the most recent iACT Interfaith Day of Thanks Celebration, Rabbi Neil Blumofe spoke beautifully about the active support that the Jewish community in Austin got from all faith groups after the tragic synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh. He underscored the fact that it took years of dedicated effort to reach that level of trust and said that he was thankful for being a part of such a caring interfaith alliance.
Regrettably, we all know that those who resist diversity are loud. Some of them are violent. When confronted with that kind of response, it’s easy to feel discouraged. Still, when I look around these days, I see a lot of new initiatives that are designed to facilitate civic dialogue, improve interfaith relations and lead to increased harmony. In recent years, I have seen peacemakers, harmonizers and healers rally to the cause of social harmony in unprecedented numbers. That gives me hope. I know I’m a dreamer, dreaming of a peaceful and harmonious world, but, thankfully, I am not the only one.
Harmony is not an unattainable utopian ideal. People are living in harmony all around the globe, in communities both large and small, but, with a constant increase in population and diversity, we have to do even better. We have to make a commitment to harmony. It is the only humane way to reduce the likelihood of vitriol, violence and war.
Limitations of space and resources are real. We either learn to live together through an embrace of diversity and a dedication to social harmony or we will suffer a slew of unpleasant consequences. The choice is ours.
The Rev. Gudjon Bergmann is the founder of Harmony Interfaith Initiative, an educational and social good organization based in Kyle; the author of the upcoming book "Co-Human Harmony: Using Our Shared Humanity to Bridge Divides," an ordained Interfaith Minister, devoted husband, and proud father of two. Doing Good Together is compiled by Interfaith Action of Central Texas, interfaithtexas.org.