The Art of Living in a Global Village

Travis Rejman, USA

Executive Director of the Goldin Institute and former Director for the Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions.

(Submitted by the author)

Interconnectedness is a reality that is gradually dawning. Most are now familiar with the idea of a "Global Village", and many have proclaimed that we now live in such a society. But, in truth, we are not yet a village, if a village means a community where everyone is welcome and valued.

All too often we ignore our interconnectedness. Instead, we are indifferent to the suffering of those we should see as our neighbors. Indifference exposes a narrow sense of the “We”. But indifference is seductive. It is much easier to look the other way and avoid the pain that comes with standing together in solidarity. As Elie Wiesel reminds us, "to be indifferent to the suffering of others is what makes the human being inhuman”.

Community building towards a new, broader sense of the “We” is the antidote to indifference. When we are truly neighbors, we cannot sit idly by as our friends suffer. When we are a true community, we cannot content ourselves with decrying the evils of our world without mobilizing towards justice and standing in solidarity.

When we are talking about who is included in a broader sense of “We”, we are talking about issues of identity. We are talking about who we are, and who we are in relation to others and the world. Is our identity described in terms of who we are, or who we are not? Is our community the exclusive owner of the truth? Or, do our communities recognize the truth in other traditions and communities in a pluralistic world?

These questions about identity are becoming increasingly important, and progressively more urgent to answer. Today, every metropolitan area in the world is home to a wide variety of religious, spiritual, and ethnic communities. No matter how insular we try to be, we cannot avoid the fact that our world is very diverse.

I learned a great deal about the power of this broadened sense of the “We” at the 1999 Parliament of the World’s Religions. In his remarks, Nelson Mandela shared how South African society forged a new self-understanding by refashioning South African identity in terms of Ubuntu, the African philosophy that posits the truth: “I am only a person through other people”.

In learning to live artfully in a global world we must not minimize our uniqueness nor the complexity of the problems that need to be faced in bringing about a more peaceful, just and sustainable world. But we will not have the wisdom or commitment to deal with these problems unless we work together as neighbors in this world.

As Martin Luther King reminded us, “Self-concern without other concern is like a tributary that has no outward flow to the ocean. Stagnant, still and stale …”

Let’s walk together in humanity’s journey towards a peaceful, just and sustainable future. We cannot walk alone. We cannot turn back.

Image credit: 'The Tree of Life', Holocaust Memorial Centre, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem.

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