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Does diversity make a healthy community?

by Daniel Kinnoch on 8th November, 2012 at 3:36 PM CEST

What is community? It is an uncomfortable topic often thrown around casually in discourse without any adequate definition. Is community defined by geographic or political boundaries? Defined by groups of people, which houses they live in or how far apart they are on a street? Or is it by a shared belief system? Zachary Neal, a sociologist who has written the acclaimed book The Connected City, examines the importance of social networks in defining a community. We need to stop looking in 'places' and look more carefully at the networks and links between different people. 

Some of the most exciting, vibrant cities on earth are also the most diverse. New York City, London, Singapore, Sydney. Many different cultures, interlinked into one beautiful community. My partner is Australian-Vietnamese. Thanks to her, I have learnt how to use chopsticks, speak a little bit of Vietnamese and have completely embraced South-East Asian culture, even down to now living in Shanghai for the next three months. The sharing of culture, new ideas and ways of doing things enhances one’s knowledge of the world and the way in which things work, encouraging healthy networks - healthy communities. One of my teacher's at university once coined a phrase, which I like to use when I meet people who are scared of diversity. "It is not right, it is not wrong, it is just different". 

In Australia, we frequently tout ourselves as being a multicultural country, with people from all nations, diverse backgrounds, different cultures and of a variety of religious affiliations. As a nation founded upon immigration, in addition to a local Indigenous population, it is important to recognise that the country was built by people from all creeds, colours and races. We have seen progress in most cases over the past sixty years, with reduced discrimination and equality in the workplace, health and service provision. 

Unlike the United States, there were not separate suburbs for African-American and Caucasians. However, there still seems to be ingrained pessimism of change and diversity in the community. We seem more than willing to eat food from different countries, but when it comes to having a lovely Indian family living next door (if they cook at home and the smell wafts from the house, they better invite me over for dinner), some people in the community are still fearful. Please note that I use this as one example only. 

Segregation and disunity within the community does nothing to help increase awareness for global issues, and help better people's understanding of different cultures and the way in which people live. The media over the past decade has run an almost limitless scare campaign of people who practice Islam, or live in Middle Eastern countries. I personally know many people who are Muslim, many of these from Malaysia and Indonesia. They are some of the most loving, respectful people that I know and are also devoutly religious. There is not an extremist bone in their body and they are studying alongside people from other cultures at my university. I may personally not be religious, however I believe that people should have the right to practice their faith, especially when that faith promotes social harmony, upholds social morals and encourages respect between people. 

Diversity in belief systems, diversity in culture, diversity in language. Diversity. 

So, does diversity create a healthy community? It is up to each and every person within their own network to answer that question, to decide for themselves whether they're open to change and new ideas. I would like to think that Challenge:Future members, as an open minded global youth think tank, embrace diversity in their lives every day. 

Maybe we can help others to do the same.

Daniel Kinnoch, Writers Action Team #10

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Syed Mehmood Kazmi

Syed Mehmood Kazmi | Action team

Yes, Of course. Diversity makes any community healthy. We can respect each other differences and become more strong. It's just like a bucket of flowers consisting everyone inside.

Great Article! Cheers :)

8th November, 2012 @ 9:12 PM CEST

KEDEI INAH

KEDEI INAH

Diversity is what makes us unique.

18th November, 2012 @ 2:02 PM CEST

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