Water Mosaic echoes from home

pondering the mysteries, simplicity, and humor of life

Monday, August 01, 2005

Embracing the 'Other'

How can I create space for ‘the other’? I’m currently reading Exclusion & Embrace by Volf and his writing has made me reassess this question. How can I live out the concept of “you are not only you; others belong to you too?” How do I, or we as a society, construct a dichotomy of “them” and “us?” Can we boil the problem down to an equation: we are moral and civilized; they are the wicked barbarians? Who are the “we” and “they” in this statement?

Without rehashing our shameful history, barbaric conquest, colonization, and enslavement of non-Europeans legitimized the myth of “spreading the light of civilization.” It becomes ironic how the undeniable progress of inclusion fed off the practice of exclusion. But if we level all boundaries that lead to inclusion, does that mean we create disorder? The absence of boundaries creates nonorder, which is not the end of exclusion. In essence it seizes to cultivate life no more. So as Volf says, “A consistent pursuit of inclusion places one before the impossible choice between a chaos without boundaries and oppression with them.”

I’m faced with this simple drawing from a child this morning. But this is not an image conjured up by an imaginative youngster; rather, this picture was drawn with simple crayons and paper depicting the horrific acts of the genocide seen through the eyes of a Sudanese child. The power of exclusion is all too real for these people. But do I respond by excluding their attackers? Granted, I know the Janjaweed’s injustice is great and needs to be stopped. I am not trying to justify their act by any means. But could I embrace one of them? That is what I’m trying to understand this morning.