Is it possible to live peacefully together?
“To respect the opinions of those who stand against you is nothing short of courageous” ― Raif Badawi, 1000 Lashes: Because I Say What I Think
Can we live together peacefully in a world where different faiths exist? Do we have to live as isolated beings, disconnected from each other and utterly separated by our beliefs? Or are we able to build a society where we all respect each other and present our ideas and point of view freely?
This article would present an option, which would allow us to live peacefully together, with respect and diversity. But, how to do it? How is it possible to respect the others if you do not know anything about them and, as a consequence, you do not understand them or you do not know how do they think?
There is an option: pluralism. Pluralism theory gives us the key to live together in a peaceful society. Pluralism goes further than tolerance because it not only respects other people’s opinions and points of view, differences and ideas but also accepts others in all considerations. However, if we wish to talk about pluralism, first we need to know what pluralism is about and how it can truly influence our lives.
Pluralism is the toleration or acceptance of multiple opinions, respect for different values and understanding of diverse theories. It does not mean that it wants to erase differences and distinctions between human beings.
Consequently, pluralism is the idea that aims to connect with each other in order to learn and to build the future together with respect and tolerance, but also acceptance. Pluralism also involves seeking to understand across cultural and religious divisions while keeping differences intact. To sum it up: pluralism defends that everybody has the right to be different and be respected by others no matter what their origins, beliefs or differences would be. However, there are multiple definitions of pluralism and for me, this concept goes further than this definition; pluralism asks for a mutual agreement to get an understanding of each other.
In every different case, the agreement is sometimes very difficult to reach. For this reason, the Harvard University researcher Diana L. Eck makes the distinction between pluralism and tolerance. In her point of view, pluralism is not just tolerance, but the active seeking of understanding across lines of difference.
As Diana L. Eck puts it: “Tolerance is a necessary public virtue but it does not require anyone; for example, Christians and Muslims, Hindus, Jews or ardent secularists, to know anything about one another in order to show respect to a different belief. Tolerance is created to thin a foundation for a world of difference and proximity. It does nothing to remove our ignorance of one another and leaves aside the stereotype, the half-truth, the fears that underlie old patterns of division and violence. In the world in which we live today, our ignorance of one another will be increasingly costly”.
Tolerance does not require a minimal agreement between the different parts, but it is defined as a willingness to accept behaviors or beliefs that are different from your own, although you might not agree with or approve them. But, is it truly possible to live together without an agreement in the world we live in nowadays? Can we share our opinion and receive some respect for it? Some believe that without agreements, the doors of dialogue are closed. However, in order to build a society based on agreement, we need to go further and, as described above by Diana L. Eck, in my opinion, pluralism should be the answer.
Coming back to the very beginning and related to the question: why is pluralism necessary? We could claim that pluralism is a tool to reach a real agreement between different people, ideas, religions, cultures, and points of view. It is a social agreement, which claims that people with different views have the right to have them and to defend them.
Another point that we should take into consideration; If different value systems are correct, the ones against the human rights and the pluralism itself are acceptable as well? Since the correct/incorrect classification of the facts depends on everyone’s self-opinion, do they also have to be respected? Personally, the answer should be no. In my opinion, the value systems that do not respect the idea of pluralism itself should not be accepted. All theories have to have a limit. Pluralism limits finishes when human rights are damaged, affecting the understanding, tolerance and peace of a plural society.
In conclusion, pluralism is the engagement that builds a common society from all kinds of diversity. An instance of pluralism could not exist without any engagement or relationship among the different groups. A common relationship and understanding are necessary between different systems as long as they also accept the pluralism idea itself.
Diana L. Eck (born 1945 in Bozeman, Montana) is a scholar of religious studies who is a Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies at Harvard University, as well as a Master of Lowell House and the Director of The Pluralism Project at the same university. Among other works, she is the author of Banaras, City of Light, Darsan: Seeing the Divine Image in India, and A New Religious America: How a Christian Country Became the World’s Most Religiously Diverse Nation.