Diversity is a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts, which include race, ethnic origin and colour, religion and creed, sexual orientation, age and ability, to name but a few. As ever evolving creatures in an ever changing world, the innumerable aspects of our humanity - all our ways of being, knowing and moving through the world - are contained in this one concept.
As human beings, we are revealed and make ourselves known to one another by infinite varieties of intelligence, language, race, values, politics, religion, national service, gender presentation, philosophy and a host of other elements common to humankind. The recognition of a common humanity is the first step in the celebration of our differences - differences that inform our cultures, our values, our minds, and all our ways of being in the world. Diversity is the chief informant of the creative life force and the central reality in our understanding and stewardship of it.
Here at Unity International Café Lunches, diversity is recognised as an essential binding agent of the interdisciplinary approach to education, as well as to the greater life experience. The phrase, "Think globally; act locally," has inspired our culture to better understand that the world is a multicultural society of which we are a part. The systems of the world - its governments, economies, religions and cultures - are increasingly dependent on interdependence. Differences become strengths in a collaborative effort. Collaboration is a path to peace.
All of this - and more - makes diversity something to celebrate more than once a year.
Diversity and Sustainability
Diversity, when applied in a human context, comprises the inclusion of a wide variety of cultures, ethnicities and groups, races, religious beliefs, socio-economic backgrounds, sexual orientation and gender identity. The diversity of life is made up not only of the wide realm of human cultures and languages, but also of the diverse world of plants and animal species, habitats and ecosystems. Therefore, a more sustainable world is one in which biological, cultural and linguistic diversity thrive through the strength of the system. It is upon the foundation of this diverse array of ecological and human cultures that a sustaining, resilient world is built.
While the Unity International Café Lunches conveys a message of sustainability through diversity, on-going greening initiatives of the organisation include:
· Recycling and composting food waste
· Product packaging minimisation effort (bulk vs. individual)
· Support local businesses
· Reuse of event material, decorations, etc from year to year
· Procurement of local food
· Paper minimisation effort through electronic distribution in advertising
· Vegetarian/food allergy sensitive food menu
This Thursday we celebrate International Mother Language Day. The United Nations' (UN) International Mother Language Day annually celebrates language diversity and variety worldwide on February 21. It also remembers events such as the killing of four students on February 21, 1952, because they campaigned to officially use their mother language, Bengali, in Bangladesh.
What Do People Do?
On International Mother Language Day the UN's Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and UN agencies participate in events that promote linguistic and cultural diversity. They also encourage people to maintain their knowledge of their mother language while learning and using more than one language. Governments and non-governmental organisations may use the day to announce policies to encourage language learning and support.
In Bangladesh, February 21 is the anniversary of a pivotal day in the country's history. People lay flowers at a Shaheed Minar (martyr's monument). They also purchase glass bangles for themselves or female relatives; eat a festive meal and organise parties; and award prizes or host literary competitions. It is a time to celebrate Bangladesh’s culture and the Bengali language.
The Linguapax Institute, in Barcelona, Spain, aims to preserve and promote linguistic diversity globally. The institute presents the Linguapax Prize on International Mother Language Day each year. The prize is for those who have made outstanding work in linguistic diversity or multilingual education.
At the partition of India in 1947, the Bengal province was divided according to the predominant religions of the inhabitants. The western part became part of India and the eastern part became a province of Pakistan known as East Bengal and later East Pakistan. However, there was economic, cultural and lingual friction between East and West Pakistan.
These tensions were apparent in 1948 when Pakistan's government declared that Urdu was the sole national language. This sparked protests amongst the Bengali-speaking majority in East Pakistan. The government outlawed the protests but on February 21, 1952, students at the University of Dhaka and other activists organised a protest. Later that day, the police opened fire at the demonstrators and killed four students. These students' deaths in fighting for the right to use their mother language are now remembered on International Mother Language Day.
The unrest continued as Bengali speakers campaigned for the right to use their mother language. Bengali became an official language in Pakistan on February 29, 1956. Following the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971, Bangladesh became an independent country with Bengali as its official language.
On November 17, 1999, UNESCO proclaimed February 21 to be International Mother Language Day and it was first observed on February 21, 2000.
Local to home…
As International Mother Language Day approaches we are so pleased at Unity International Café Lunches to celebrate the diversity and many cultures we have in our local area. Each month bringing people together to make friends and share what is special in their culture with others. Language plays such an important part of this.
Take the time this Thursday to think about how you could celebrate your mother language, if you have children can you read them a bedtime story in your month language, or perhaps tell an old tale or fable?
This Sunday is World Religion day, our World has hundreds of nations with thousands of cultures that stretch back into pre-history, and throughout all that time we’ve had countless religions rise to prominence. Whether you’re Hindu, Jewish, Catholic, Shinto, Buddhist, or one of a million other faiths, World Religion Day is your chance to share your culture with others and take an opportunity to learn from others about theirs.
History of World Religion Day
World Religion Day was first celebrated in Portland, Maine under the title of “World Peace Through World Religion.” Firuz Kazemzadeh hosted the talk in Eastland Park Hotel in October of 1947, since then the observance of this day has spread throughout the world with the centre being held at various locations with strong authors, educators, and philosophers speaking about the importance of World Religions.
Sri Lanka went so far as to release a postage stamp honouring World Religion Day, with another issued by the Republic of Congo. The focus of this holiday is to spread awareness and knowledge of the thousands of religions practiced in the world today, and a sharing of tolerance and understanding between people of all faiths.
How to Celebrate World Religion Day
World Religion Day is easy to observe, you need merely take the time and effort to study the faiths of the world around you with an open mind. World Religion Day is about conversation, it’s about learning about the religions that shape the world around you and becoming aware of how many there are that just don’t appear in mainstream western culture.
Take some time to open the taboo subject of religion today, share openly and learn about what those around you believe, and maybe do a little research into your favourite culture to learn a bit about its foundational religions. Whether you’re learning about the Hindu faith with its thousands of Gods, or precisely how the thousands of denominations of Christianity grew out of the Judaic faith thousands of years ago, World Religion Day is your opportunity to broaden your horizons.
Obviously, this includes taking this opportunity to speak to others about your religion but remember as you do so that World Religion Day is not about conversion. Speak to another with an open heart and open mind, and share what your religion has to say, and then take the time to listen to them talk about theirs from a place of understanding and love.
Any forward-thinking organisation will now talk about their commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion but what do these three words actually mean, why is there so much focus on it, and if it is so important, how do we truly achieve it?
Equality is simply the state of being equal and is important because it is the foundation of any fair society where each member has the opportunity to reach their full potential. Diversity is any difference, whether visible or not, in fact anything that makes us unique. Inclusion involves creating an environment of respect, where different ideas, backgrounds, and perspectives come together.
It is now widely agreed that organisations need both diversity and inclusion to be successful. The question is therefore not ‘why’ do we need to focus on it but ‘how’ do we achieve it?
I believe we firstly need to reshape the conversation, shining the spotlight away from a narrow focus on gender diversity and on to wider talent diversity. Gender diversity alone won’t increase the success of a company or create the changes we so fundamentally need in society.
Here are three of the many things I believe we need to be doing to achieve equality not only in the workplace but also in our wider society:
Change the culture
At Deloitte they have focused on building an inclusive culture underpinned by respect. They have industry leading approaches supporting their respect and inclusion agenda – agile working, shared parental leave, diversity networks, LGBT allies, prayer and wellness rooms, the list goes on. However it is not enough to have an infrastructure supporting diversity, belief in equality needs to be embedded into the culture and the thinking of the people in the business.
Flexible (or agile) working is a good example. When implementing their agile working approach nearly six years ago, they made it clear to everyone that they had the ability to choose when, where and how they worked. This fundamental change to the way they work has moved them a lot closer towards greater diversity and equality but has only been successful because the approach was supported by a change in the culture.
If the workplace culture accepts or encourages people to be seen in the office until late, then a company couldn’t successfully introduce such a programme. We can’t expect to make progress if we just layer diversity initiatives on top of attitudes that do not support them.
We are aiming for a workplace and society that is inclusive, which means we don’t want to exclude anyone, including the ‘non-diverse’ groups, who may be supportive of diversity in principle but who could feel ostracised by initiatives that they are excluded from.
With the focus on International Women’s Day recently, I couldn’t help but notice the inevitable cries of ‘what about International Men’s day?’. Although this is missing the point that the day is still needed to highlight ongoing gender inequality and ensure future progress, if we focus on the minority groups alone, we risk building resentment in the majority and alienating them entirely. In order to achieve change, we need everyone to understand the debate and get fully behind this.
Diversity networks are great to give people a forum to share ideas but are only successful if they are inclusive. I would even question why we need a ‘diversity’ group as we are all individually unique. I look forward to a society where the under-represented have achieved equality and we no longer need networks or women’s only events to press for progress and that everyone, with all of their differences, comes together in an equal, inclusive society.
Question our own thinking
Even those of us who think of ourselves as open-minded can challenge our way of thinking.
Do you surround yourself with people from different backgrounds, with different beliefs? Ask yourself: are all my personal and professional connections just like me? Do I have any unconscious bias? We are genetically programmed to surround ourselves with people who are similar to us but doing this closes our minds. Equal doesn’t mean the same and we need to have respect for people with different views or who have made different choices.
Debate is healthy and should be encouraged, but we must not forget what we are trying to achieve:
Culture-led development strategies have direct and indirect impacts on social inclusion, social innovation and intercultural dialogue. Access to culture for all increases social cohesion at local level, but also strengthens considerably the sense of belonging to a city and local pride. Access to culture, including audience development, is also a key concern in cultural policies across Europe in order to bridge social disparities.
Access to culture as a means of social inclusion and intercultural dialogue
Culture can be a powerful instrument in promoting social inclusion and managing diversity. Initiatives designed to ensure effective access to and participation in cultural activities can have many positive impacts at local level. Cities are particularly well positioned to implement culture-related activities with a social objective/purpose. Culture is also a key to foster intercultural dialogue. Promoting intercultural dialogue provides a means to enjoy the richness of cultural diversity by fostering mutual understanding and establishing linkages between different cultures, communities and people.
Culture as a driver of civic participation
Culture is increasingly regarded as a tool to foster citizens’ participation in public life. The cultural and creative sector is permeated with values such as free exchange, critical thinking, personal development, solidarity, cooperation, networking, diversity and co-creation. Those values can spread from the cultural field through the society as a whole in many ways such as forms of community arts, workshops or voluntary programmes.
Social innovation through culture
By promoting citizens’ participation, forms of co-creation and involvement, culture can also be instrumental to social innovation by stimulating new forms of problem solving and innovative governance models to address societal challenges. Creativity, lateral thinking and imagination are particularly valuable in generating new ideas to solve societal issues through the creation of new products, services and models. Innovative participatory approaches have been experimented at local level as an opportunity to give new dynamism to cities’ plans by involving citizens in the decision-making process.
Each year the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on 21 September. The General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.
A peaceful society is one where there is justice and equality for everyone. Peace will enable a sustainable environment to take shape and a sustainable environment will help promote peace.
The theme for the International Day of Peace in 2018 is “The Right to Peace - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70”
The theme celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.
The Universal Declaration – the most translated document in the world, available in more than 500 languages - is as relevant today as it was on the day that it was adopted.
In the lead up to the International Day of Peace on 21 September, we call upon all to take action.
Join with people around the world by observing the International Day of Peace!
People in cities, communities and villages worldwide have engaged in the International Day of Peace in diverse and meaningful ways. Consider gathering for a Global Feast for Peace, including foods from different cultures, or interfaith dialogue, or just gather to break bread.
Share your feasts with us on Facebook
The blending of foods has been appearing everywhere — from swanky restaurants to city roaming food trucks. But, how much of this “fusion food” is real, and how much of it is just dressed up fries?
Fusion food, at its core, is the blending of two or more cultures’ foods and styles to make something different and new. For instance, the noodles in our spaghetti were influenced by Chinese noodles.
Kimchi fries, although good, are not actually fusion. It’s fries ala Asian meat spices and kimchi. The culture around this one fusion-esque beacon is huge. Asian based food trucks and even some of the most authentic Asian restaurants sell this staple dish.
Most of the popular fusion foods are Asian-based. There is no market in Italian, Greek, Nigerian or Latin fusion food outside of dressing tacos with Asian condiments and meats.
Granted, this may be in part because other cultures are very protective of their foods. Some do not want outside forces or influences in their food because of the history and importance the food holds. That being said, if you are going to do fusion food, you still have to do it correctly.
People do it right all of the time without even thinking about it. It usually comes in the privacy of people’s own homes. Going back to spaghetti, some people put creole seasoned shrimp and crawfish into their dishes. Others might use a pot roast in a stir fry.
The concept of fusion food stems from curiosity, creativity and the love of other cultures. To create real fusion food there must first be open-mindedness. The next step is letting go and allowing yourself to learn from others so you can then implement that new-found knowledge.
After that, something truly new that is both fusion and still allows those two cultures to exist can be achieved.
Have you ever wondered what the food you eat everyday can tell you about where you come from? Have you ever wondered why people from different parts of the world eat different types of food? Do you ever ask yourself why certain foods or culinary traditions are so important to your culture? There is more of a connection between food and culture than you may think.
On an individual level, we grow up eating the food of our cultures. It becomes a part of who each of us are. Many of us associate food from our childhood with warm feelings and good memories and it ties us to our families, holding a special and personal value for us. Food from our family often becomes the comfort food we seek as adults in times of frustration and stress. When I was sick as a kid, I couldn’t eat rice because I was too weak, so my mother would cook soup and bring it to bed for me. The smell and taste of the soup became something very familiar to me. Now, whenever I feel tired or stressed, I remember the soup my Mum used to make for me and I feel hungry for that soup.
On a larger scale, food is an important part of culture. Traditional cuisine is passed down from one generation to the next. It also operates as an expression of cultural identity. Immigrants bring the food of their countries with them wherever they go and cooking traditional food is a way of preserving their culture when they move to new places.
Continuing to make food from their culture for family meals is a symbol of pride for their ethnicity and a means of coping with homesickness. Many open their own restaurants and serve traditional dishes. However, the food does not remain exactly the same. For example, some ingredients needed to make traditional dishes may not be readily available, so the taste and flavour can be different from the taste and flavour of the dishes that they would prepare in their home countries. Additionally, when immigrants sell food in another country, they do not only sell it to people from the same countries as them, but to people from different countries. Therefore, they have to alter the original dishes to cater to a wider range of customers with distinct tastes and flavour preferences. Alterations to original dishes can create new flavours that still retain the cultural significance of the dish.
What stays the same though is the extent to which each country or community’s unique cuisine can reflect its unique history, lifestyle, values, and beliefs.
In China, harmony is a vital trait in almost every aspect of life. This is reflected in Chinese cuisine, where almost every flavour (salty, spicy, sour, sweet, and bitter) is used in a balanced way creating delicious dishes with flavours that go well together. Historically, Chinese people have an ornate style, which can be seen in their architecture and costumes, as well as in their food. They believe that food not only needs to be nutritious but also needs to look appealing, so they put a lot of effort into decorating the dishes and making them look colourful, with vibrant red as their traditional colour.
The cuisine of the United States reflects its history. The European colonisation of the Americas yielded the introduction of European ingredients and cooking styles to the U.S. Later in the 20th century, the influx of immigrants from many foreign nations developed a rich diversity in food preparation throughout the country.
As the world becomes more globalised, it is easier to access cuisines from different cultures.
We should embrace our heritage through our culture’s food, but we should also become more informed about other cultures by trying their foods. It’s important to remember that each dish has a special place in the culture to which it belongs and is special to those who prepare it. Food is a portal into culture, and it should be treated as such.
Tomatoes, Potatoes, Peppers, Squash, Beans, Chocolate, Corn: the ingredients that have arguably shaped the world's cuisines originated in North and South America. The Spanish and European arrival in the Americas ushered in a period of dramatic change. Globalization may be a modern term to us, but the trading of food and materials in this era signals a new world order based on economic and cultural goods. After all, what would Italian fare be without tomato-based marinara? Or Swiss culture without Chocolate?
So, when you sit down for dinner, look at what is on your plate and think about where it came from. It is likely you will be looking at a combination of foods from around the world, and representing a variety of cultures. There, on your pizza is tomato sauce and pepper from the Americas, and cheese and meat from animals originating in the Old World. Your plate tells a story: a story rooted in the conquest, and at times the brutality, of Spanish entradas.
Filmmaker Mike Foster explores these themes in his video, New World Sustenance:
I was asked to share my thoughts in writing to describe what inclusion means to me. These thoughts came from my own life experience and from the recent inspiration of discussing this topic in the past few weeks at home and work. So here goes…
Being different is not a choice. We often forget about this as we go through our day or our life until something happens that causes us to feel it. Being different can feel good and sometimes feel really bad. It all depends on whether we are accepted for this difference.
Think back at your earliest age when you understood what different meant, what it looked like, how it felt. If we today reflect for a minute, we are all very different, and have to remind ourselves of this. We can come from the same country, religion, gender, family and be different and have generalizations casted upon us and cast them upon others without deliberate thought. Further, we sometimes even cast them on ourselves and internalize them, the good and bad.
We go through life, like breathing seeing difference. It helps us navigate life. But like anything if not with consciousness it can lead to unintended consequences. We go through life often gravitating unconsciously and sometimes consciously to those like us. Why is it that? It provides great safety, sometimes ease, speed, a sense of belonging. This is part of being human. Also part of being human is Bias. It’s ever present and “unavoidable” and human. It affects our choices and behaviour. And, like any habit, we can set an intention and choose to see different and include.
Inclusion is not about avoiding diversity, difference or being agreeable. It’s not about “fluff” or being “soft” and going with the flow. It’s more about creating a space of safety for you and others to be seen, heard and accepted. Inclusion creates a space for difference to have its voice heard in our relationships, our family, community, at work, in the world. It’s actually about looking at difference with curiosity. Treating people not as you wanted to be treated but as they want to be treated and vice versa.
Exclusion on the other hand separates, it inhibits, limits, shuts down, sometimes oppresses, even suffocates. To be excluded is one of the top five fears that we as humans have. It instils fear by its very nature and can create tremendous anxiety and can lead to conflict. Exclusion is not just harmful to the person, it’s harmful to relationships, families, profit and non-profit organizations and societies. We lose out on who that person is and what that person who is different from us (be it their perspective, their idea, their culture, their age) has to offer. We lose out on what we can learn and on what they/we together can contribute, build, inspire and live.
Imagine a relationship, a family, a workplace, a community, a world if we included. It would be safe, peaceful, inspiring, fun and we would want to belong.
Diversity is the presence of difference. Inclusion is a choice. Inclusion gives everyone a voice.
Unity International Lunches hosts a monthly ‘international lunch’ featuring foods from different countries with an aim of integrating ethnic groups in Boscombe.