21st May – World Cultural Diversity Day

by Christine Sine

by Diane Woodrow

Interestingly in planning for this something else popped up and I wrote a piece around King Charles’ coronation to do with cultural diversity. As a good detective says “there’s no such thing as coincidences” and my QEC practitioner is always saying how things come up for a reason that we need to explore. 

So what does come to mind when we talk about “cultural diversity”? What picture/image comes to mind?  And what does cultural diversity look like? 

Meaning according to https://www.dictionary.com/ 

  • the cultural variety and cultural differences that exist in the world, a society, or an institution: Dying languages and urbanization are threats to cultural diversity.
  • the inclusion of diverse people in a group or organization: to embrace cultural diversity in the workplace.

The Modern Cockney Festival looks at how the culture of Cockneys, which was originally a word used for those born within the sound of Bow Bells in London, has morphed and changed and come to embrace all those who feel they can relate to some of the cockney traditions. There are other events like this that are for people who feel they relate to those traditions, cultures or similar, that at one time certain races, genders or creeds may not have. 

There are differences in cultures that we need to recognise, honour and celebrate and I believe we are getting better and better are recognising the big differences, but what about the more subtle ones? 

I live in North Wales and when we moved here we did think that the only differences were between Welsh and English, but the longer we’ve lived here and the more people we have come to know we have found that there are much more subtleties within the land than we originally envisaged. Many of which can get lost within the bigger picture. We’ve had both Anglican church parish boundaries and electoral boundaries changed recently due to population density. But there is a major cultural difference between those who live on the coast and those who live in hills, those who live nearer the English border and those who live on the Western reaches, those who live in the large towns and those who live in isolated villages. Within a population of just over three million people there is a great range of diversities. 

I lived in Belfast in 1996-7 which gave me a feel there for the cultural diversity of the city and the surrounding countryside. I got to know people who were Protestant and Catholic, Unionist and Loyalist, who had moved to the city from a village where everyone knew each other and those who lived in the city but also knew each other. Belfast in the mid 1990s was like no city I’ve ever lived in before. I cannot comment about the rest of Northern Ireland because I never made it over to Londonderry or into the hinterland. The population of Northern Ireland is less than two million and yet so diverse. 

Having lived in both these places I have seen how especially government or media do not honour the diversity of these nations but make judgement calls about what they need as a whole, what they want as a whole, and even what these people think as a whole. There is no space for different wants and needs. 

I know too that I am guilty of this with Native American tribes, with people who live in India, Asia, and all those myriad of countries I have never visited and never had the time to really get to know. Yet Revelation 7:9 says 

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from EVERY nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands 

I think the reason the bible says “multitude” is because then no one can give an exact figure. I think this is because God understands and knows each different group of people however big or small, however diverse, and is going to make sure they are fully represented in heaven. 

Note the word EVERY in there. Not most, not a few of, not even the majority, but EVERY nation, tribe, people and language will be there whether here on earth they have been recognised at all. 

I believe that we need to stop lumping people into easier to handle homogeneous groups believing we know what they want or need or think but we all need to start listening to, talking to and really finding out how we can all fit together but still stay cultural diverse. 

I think we also all need to be true to our own cultural diversity and who we fit with. I’m working with people who are between 15 and 40 years younger than me. Even those who are 15 years younger than me are of a different generation, have different values, different tastes, remember different music and TV programs. I have to accept that even though I am friends with them I also have a different culture that I relate to and fit comfortably into. 

I do think too often we try to find a homogeneous whole that we can fit into instead of enjoying the over laps. There is nothing to be afraid of in being cultural different to someone whether they are in our street, town, workplace, country, or that we never meet at all. God says “EVERY nation, tribe, people and language” will be standing shoulder to shoulder praising. We’re not going to have to conform to a “holy homogeneous huddle” but will be able to enjoy our different hues, words, styles, etc in heaven. Maybe we could start doing it now.  But also realise how much overlap there is.

How many cultural groups do you belong to? 

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