Acceptance must not be conditional

A caring economy: Do you really care?

It is far too easy for us to fall prey to our sensitivities in matters related to our politics, to our views on religion and to our fears.
In that regard, Canadians are no different from the citizens of other countries.
These sensitivities, which frequently manifest themselves in biases, explain in part the enormous differences in the world’s reactions to the heart-wrenching pain suffered in recent weeks by the people of Lebanon, Russia and France.
In two of those three cases, there have been some rather muted reactions. Outside of the Middle East, relatively small percentages of people in the almost 200 countries and territories in the world paid serious heed to the human, political and religious consequences of the violent attacks in Beirut last Thursday that claimed 44 lives. And, despite the emotional pain of the Russians from the crash of the Russian airliner over Egypt on Oct. 31, this matter involving the loss of 224 lives only acquired major significance for the international community when it was confirmed as a clear case of malicious political violence against a civilian target.
On the other hand, millions of citizens from a huge number of countries reacted with massive outpourings of grief and solidarity to the human, religious, political and security implications of the vicious, multi-pronged attacks that resulted in the loss of 129 lives in Paris last Friday.
Are the lives and the welfare of the French people worth more than the lives and welfare of the Lebanese and the Russians?
All three cases require that we keep a level head as we consider how to respond as individuals and as a society and how our government should fashion its domestic and foreign policies to meet the challenges involved.
Let us start our search for a responsible response to that situation with a focus on ourselves as individuals and as a society. Our government’s response is addressed in the Editorial in today’s Caribbean Camera.
What is to be said about some of our personal sensitivities and the fact many Canadians are afraid of the possibility that our current government’s humanitarian approach to the Syrian refugee crisis may endanger our safety?
Are those persons presuming that the refugees we welcome to Canada will be violent religious fanatics like those who belong to ISIS? Are those persons presuming that even those refugees who are not supporters of ISIS belong to a religious faith that is incompatible with Canadian values?
How can such persons fall into the emotional trap of deeming a religious faith different from our own as a threat to our safety when the vast majority of the hundreds of thousands of its adherents based here have so successfully adapted to working, studying and living in Canada and making a valuable contribution to our society?
Those insecure doubting Thomases are becoming a part of the problem, instead of becoming a part of the solution.
The discomfort you may feel about persons who belong to a culture different from your own is one thing. But the feeling that that culture is not worthy of your respect is quite another. That “feeling” may push you into the poisonous belief that someone else’s culture is founded on a religious faith that is a threat to your welfare and safety. And bingo! You have crossed the line!
Avoid that slippery slope at all costs. The destination at the end of that dangerous line of reasoning is what I choose to call “cultural racism”. It is a narrow “tunnel vision” of life in which one becomes incapable of distinguishing the extremism of religious fanatics from the religious faith to which they claim to belong.
That is the same warped view according to which Christianity is more evil than other religious faiths because so many Christian fundamentalists burned down Black churches in the U.S., attacked abortion clinics there, tried to maim or even kill persons who work or use the services of those clinics and participated actively in the racist violence of the Klu Klux Klan.
No. That negative thinking will not serve our Canadian values of equity and mutual respect. These values require us to look into the root causes of the crises in the Middle East and to prod our government into addressing them to formulate meaningful long-term solutions.
More significantly, it is in our national interest that we put those Canadian values to work for us as we assume the socially responsible approach to welcoming refugees, beginning with those from Syria.
Refugee families are more than displaced persons to whom we offer refuge. They are a valuable resource for our diverse society and their skills and those their children will develop here will make them valuable assets for our country’s prosperity.