I know, usually when I write about Africa it is about South Africa. But, I recently met someone who is from Ghana. And, while many things were discussed through the course of the conversation, some of which did indeed have to do with the country of South Africa, a few of the comments this man shared about his homeland I felt were worth passing on to others.
Particularly, I learned that the country has an invisible line through the center that came to be early in its existence. The northern half of the country was controlled by Arabs coming down into the country from the north while the southern half came to be controlled by missionaries who came by boat, entering the country from its southern coast. The significance of that is that the northern part of Ghana is predominantly Muslim while the south is predominantly Christian.
If not handled properly this could have been cause for the country to be in a constant state of turmoil and division as cultures clashed. However, its leaders had the wisdom to institute a requirement of its people that would aid in avoiding this potential for conflict. When it was time for the children to go off to school, they were required to go to boarding school. But, not just any boarding school. If their family lived in the south, the children had to go to boarding school in the north; if the family lived in the north, the children had to go to school in the south. The reasoning was if the children were living every day alongside people of a different culture, they would learn that this other culture was not an enemy. Instead of focusing on their differences, they were taught to focus on their similarities.
Wow. Just think what that would mean in our everyday lives, in our nation, across the world, if we were that deliberate in our interactions with others. That instead of noticing how that person, culture, nation is different than me, we stopped to notice how we are the same. Even if we just started with one person. If our first impluse is to notice how they seem “different” than us, what if we swapped out that thought and replaced it with, “what do I have in common with this person?” Start small, if you must. You both have two eyes through which you see the world, two ears to hear, one mouth to speak. But, don’t stop there. What are your goals? What is your hope for your future? What are your fears? Might you share these in common as well?
Certainly the world would be a boring place if everyone was “just the same”. I’m not suggesting a homogenous world. There is definitely value in differences. But, in order to appreciate the differences, we need to start by recognizing what we hold in common.
This is my challenge for us all today.
Have a great day!