The Pitfalls and Privilege of Diversity

My Ethiopian friend, last Monday morning, leaned over the circulation desk with that look–I’ve blogged about that before–that look that tells me he’s about to share something important to him from his Orthodox culture.

“Everyone at church yesterday was sobbing. They couldn’t stop sobbing.”

My mind started racing, wondering if this was part of some ritual, or post-Easter remembrance, or ?? Then, just as he put his hand to his throat with a slitting motion, it occurred to me–the Christians murdered in Libya recently were Ethiopian.  He went on to tell me how people had gone to Libya with the promise of work, but instead of work, they found death, all because they wouldn’t recant their faith. I looked it up–2/3 of the Libya’s population are Christian, and yet they are subject to this terrible persecution.

As I have been researching material for the historical Japanese novel I’m working on, I’ve been reading about Japanese Christians who bravely faced death rather than trample on a picture of Jesus and recant their faith. Those stories have felt distant, like something that can’t happen now. And yet it is!

My little Ethiopian friend has reminded me that, as I’ve blogged before, “Everyone is everywhere.” We are not so far away from each other on this planet as we might think, and not so far away from history as we might like. These were his people, his extended family and friends, whether he knew anyone murdered personally or not.

That’s the pitfall and the privilege of diversity–it extends knowledge of far-away people and events, and carries their news to my very neighborhood. With that knowledge comes compassion, and new questions–if I care about these people, shouldn’t I pay closer attention to the news? Shouldn’t I pray for my friend’s people with greater urgency and frequency? After all, since my little friend is one of my students–one of “my people”–those far-away people don’t seem so far away anymore. It brings a certain amount of responsibility to it, and I’m not sure what to do with it.

It was interesting and a little ironic, perhaps, that while I’m thinking on that Monday about these Muslim extremists who do terrible things in the name of their religion, that a sweet Muslim girl approached me on the playground later that same day with that same look–she couldn’t wait to tell me, in the interest of sharing her culture with me, that she was fasting that day as part of a special day to bring her good luck (her words) for her education. She told me all about how old they are when they start (about 8 or 9), and her sister’s attempts at it last year. She seemed so happy that the playground staff (not just me) cared to listen to her stories. Such an easy thing to do.

Isn’t it what we all  would hope for if we were kids in a foreign country–for someone to listen to us and care just a little?



For friends new to this blog, “Wednesday’s Word” is a weekly Bible audio clip that rotates between Genesis, Luke and Psalms. Occasionally, I post “Wednesday’s Word to the Free,” a short Bible passage on what it means to be free. Freedom is a very big concern to Timley Mouse, the tiniest character in my upcoming novel, Sophie’s Quest. On Sundays, I post an article-type post on themes in the novels: faith, friendship, diversity, etc. Please join in the conversation!

Notice: Wednesday’s Word is taking a bit of a hiatus so that I can be editing and otherwise preparing for the book launch in June. See you this summer!

The Sunday posts will continue on their regular schedule as long as I am able!

About Sonja Anderson

I write novels and short stories for children, and occasionally a book or article for adults, too. I grew up in Ohio, and I have lived in Chicago, Connecticut, Boston, Tokyo, and Seattle. The beautiful Pacific Northwest inspires me every day.
This entry was posted in Being a Good Neighbor, Diversity, Faith, Loving our Neighbors and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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