Some borders are visible and solid, like the walls between the United States and Mexico. Many borders are less obvious, but have a great impact. Politicians draw non-physical borders around ‘our identity’ and ‘our culture’, marketers create divides between men and women. Some lines we draw ourselves – we call ourselves left or right, Christian or Muslim. But more often the lines are drawn by others: they define us as minority, elite, black or gay.
Which borders do we experience, personally and in society, and how can we cross them? Around 150 people from different nationalities and beliefs – from Bahai, Hindu and Buddhist to the three monotheistic faiths – gathered to discuss these questions during the annual Interfaith Conference at the International Institute of Social Studies in the Hague on 18 November. The conference, that carried the theme Crossing borders, building bridges was organised in collaboration with Initiatives of Change Netherlands and the student chaplaincy of The Hague Haastu.
After an interfaith opening with prayers and songs from various religions, participants were invited to meet and discuss at ‘dialogue tables’ and to get inspired by personal stories during the Human Library. Key note speaker was the South-African Muslim scholar and political activist Farid Esack. As an Islamic liberation theologian and feminist, Esack is a man who doesn’t fit in any category himself.
When an American university tried to pigeonhole him by inviting him to a dinner for ‘minority professors’, he was deeply insulted. ‘Objectively Muslims in South-Africa are a minority. But we are a vibrant community that has lived there for centuries and I have never identified myself as a minority. If borders are imposed upon you and owned by others, this is a form of violence. They make you into an Other, without your consent.’
Read the full report on the IofC Netherlands Website