Tuesday, August 17, 2010

‘Cultural Backgrounds and popularizing a culture of non-violence’

Activity for International Year of Youth (IYY) on ‘Cultural Backgrounds and popularizing a culture of non-violence’

The International Year Of Youth (IYY) is being celebrated from 12 August 2010 to 11 August 2011 with the theme of ‘Dialogue and Mutual Understanding’.

On this occasion, I organized a short activity for it. It started off with a power point presentation telling about UNFPA, YAP and IYY.

It was followed by an activity and interactive discussion on cultural backgrounds to help accept others and popularize a culture of non-violence. The activity consisted of filling a short questionnaire asking questions such as:

  • ·       Your cultural background
  • ·       How do cultural backgrounds shape your personality?
  • ·       Your views on the acceptance of different cultures in Pakistan
  • ·       How do you think a culture of non-violence and acceptance of people of different cultural backgrounds can be promoted among young people?

This was followed by discussion over these questions and sharing ideas. A summary of which is below.

Most of people recognize their cultural background identity with their ethnic identity namely Sindhi, Gujrati, Punjabi, Urdu Speaking, etc. Some however do include their religious identity and national identity to be forming their cultural identity. As there is a debate of one first adapts culture or religion as studied by us as part of a course in the 1st semester, so the controversy and difference of opinion of the issue is natural. Interestingly though the sectarian divide wasn’t mentioned by anyone, which shows how personal it is for everyone to keep aside.

The affect of a cultural background is ambiguous however, there is no denial that it has a huge impact on our personality and our attitude towards others. Cultural backgrounds have an impact in our thinking and shape the way we perceive others, usually creating in us a bias attitude towards others. They shape the way we view others especially if they are from the same culture as us thinking they would be having the same values as us and hence, we are like-minded. Same way when we come across people who belong to another cultural background, we have a self-perceived mindset that they are ‘different’ from us making us adhere to cultural stereo-types and generalizations over people belonging to a particular culture. The identification of a cultural identity however is a hard one to look up to as it is pretty subjective and a universally unclear phenomenon. We all are living several identities at the same time, some which we strongly feel for, others we may not feel for but do make up our identity.

The acceptance ratio and tolerance towards other cultures lacks progress in our society however, it is highly essential for a peaceful society. Respect for other cultures and their values and traditions are essential for acceptance of each others. Every person is sensitive about their roots. Cultural backgrounds surely have impact on your personality but it is not the only thing to have shaped your personality. The individual is largely forgotten for what he or she is in the larger picture of what might be his or her identity as formed by culture, mother tongue, nationality, family background, upbringing, religion, etc. Educated people in Pakistan do realize this and to quite some extent practice it too. However, the trend needs to be largely promoted throughout the country.

Flexible attitudes are not easy to implement and in a volatile society like Pakistan need to be implemented with care. The best way to teach about different cultures and promote tolerance for them is through introducing courses in universities around the country regarding them varying them in terms of activities and term projects most suitable to promote the idea according to the situation in different parts of the country (i.e. in different provinces). Youth is surely the best target to breed this value in to as it is a long-term investment that would surely change the general mindset in the long run. Seminars, debates and counseling sessions may help be a catalyst in the process too. However, the importance of upbringing cannot be ignored. Elders need to teach this precious value to their children as children are close to their families and adopt their teachings in to their personalities, especially if taught at a young age.

All sorts make the world, cherish each creation!

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