Wednesday, December 6, 2006

basically the same

Here is an audio version of an interesting NPR story. The US Ambassador in Berlin has started a program to meet with young German Muslims and set up a dialogue about each other's respective worldviews. As part of this program the kids even get to go on a trip to the States. They visit New York and DC; check out Times Square and the State Department; and talk to Americans about America, Germany, and Islam.

This is a great idea. A lot of these kids grow up in small immigrant communities, often underpriveleged, and never leave them. Like in any inward-looking community, they end up with localized and skewed ideas about a lot of things concerning the rest of the world.

A program like this gives these kids a chance to step out of their bubbles, and also to see the more “human” side of America - or at the very least gives them some context and a frame of reference for the country and its people.

I think there should be similar programs for Americans to visit Pakistan, and also, for that matter, for Pakistanis to visit the US. Just spending some time in the other’s country and speaking frankly with its people would give both sides a much better understanding of each other. It would go a long way towards dispelling so many of the pre-conceived stereotypes that people on either side can’t help but have these days. It would at least instil in young kids two fundamental facts: (1) that you can't blame an entire country or a tradition for the actions of a few of its members, and (2) that despite all the social, cultural, or economic differences, people everywhere are basically the same.

1 comment:

omarhaq said...

yes - good idea - though there would probably need to be some additional infrastructure present before they embark to pakistan. like things to do, people to meet, places to travel. security! arrangements aside. it could quite possibly be a life changing experience for these people