The voices of division are loud. So out-shout them.
There’s a picture I’m sure you’ve seen. Been all over social media and the news. It’s of a young man holding a tiki torch and shouting. Shouting so hard you can see the tendons in his neck. He’s with a larger group of young men all doing the same. All white supremacists. It gave me a chill. Where did they learn this hate? I mean most must’ve been maybe 2 or 3 years old during 9/11 yet here they are, some using a symbol of hate that’s over half a century old. This guy though, he looks like he could be anyone’s kid. Youthful. Clean cut. But full of anger and hate and lashing out.
These displays of intolerance are everywhere. Even here in Bangladesh, one cannot escape the feelings that are provoked by watching the scenes of Charlottesville in the States. Being on the other side of the world, it still feels close. The level of ignorance and intolerance is sickening. More so, the response of some leaders has been frustrating.
Those feelings however are the easy ones and don’t get me wrong, we deserve to feel them. But we face a challenge here. How do we answer this? How do we let love be the answer during this dark hour? We can’t let those people, so full of hate, govern who we are, who we want to be. We need to make sure we are having these discussions with each other, and our children.
The challenge starts at home. I know the world is not evil, it is not divided by hate, and hate cannot win. The world does not have to be divided on race, religion, or sexual orientation. We do not have to go any further than our own backyard to see the hope for this.
But today my back yard is Bangladesh. I cannot help but draw some comparisons. Bangladesh is an incredibly dense country. There are 160 million people in an area not much larger than the island of Newfoundland. They suffer from incredible poverty and have gigantic challenges in health, environment and industry. They’re also divided by religious lines, 80% Muslim and 20% Hindu. They live and work side by side peacefully tolerant of each other’s views and beliefs. Yes, tolerance can win.
Yes Bangladesh still has a long way to go in a lot of areas but the point is they are moving in a positive direction. Forward, not backward. They have made incredible strides in health care and maternal medicine in particular. In the 1980’s, there was a 600/100,000 maternal death rate, an incredibly high number (Canada’s is 6/100,000, a full 100 times difference). During this time in Bangladesh you were 100 times more likely to die based on location alone. Yet with the help of other countries (like Canada) the rate today is approximately 100/100,000. Positive progress.
There’s no problem too difficult to tackle, too complex to understand. Bangladesh reaffirmed that for me. We came here to teach but we have been the ones learning. Tolerance and acceptance are alive and well but they need our help to thrive. To celebrate difference, not fear it. To answer those who would attempt to divide us. To shout louder than that young man in the picture.