Our View: Being different doesn't have to divide us

We look forward to the day when a picture of Jewish women having dessert with Muslim women, and the story that accompanies that photo, aren't front-page news in the Post-Bulletin. That day, obviously, hasn't arrived, because Thursday's article by reporter P-B Christina Killion-Valdez was an eye-opener. 

For the past 18 months, about 20 women have gathered, not to defend their faith or find common ground outside of their religion, but simply to try to better understand each other's beliefs and culture. Instead of seeing each other in black and white, they explore the gray areas — and in doing so discover that their differences don't have to define the way they view each other.

The problem, of course, is that in today's America there are plenty of people who wouldn't dream of breaking bread and sharing a laugh or two with those whom they've identified as "the other" because of their race, religion or politics. In Saturday's Post-Bulletin, you'll find must-read columns on this topic by Rochester resident Muhammad Babur and syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts.

Not to steal these writers' thunder, but the fact is that prejudice and bigotry are alive and well in America. People fear what they don't understand, and when our would-be leaders use simplistic, divisive, apocalyptic language to fan the flames of their listeners' fears, we shouldn't be stunned when an unbalanced individual takes that message literally and does something unthinkable.

So we applaud these Jewish and Muslim women for making an effort to understand cultures that  must have been profoundly foreign when these interactions began. And more important, we praise those women who bring their teenage daughters to these gatherings, thus giving a generational quality to the message that we don't have to share a common faith in order to be friends. Instead of fearing what they don't understand, these girls are being taught that it's better to learn about it. 


There's a lesson here for all of us about religious tolerance, but we'd also apply it to the political realm, especially those of us who are raising children. During the next 10 weeks, let's watch what we say about those with whom we disagree. It's fine to talk a bit of politics with kids, but we need to do so without demonizing the other side.

After all, contrary to what we're hearing from the presidential campaigns, Republicans aren't inherently evil, and neither are Democrats — but a few careless words from us will send that very message to our children.

"Unlearning" such prejudices is a difficult task indeed.

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