Race, Religion and Rationality

As seen in The Boar, University of Warwick’s student newspaper:

‘I am the prisoner of hope’ were the words spoken by Rev Reeves, founder of the Soul of Europe initiative, as he discussed how difficult it is to break down deep rooted barriers of faith and race in Eastern Europe. Listening to his missionary work in Bosnia and Serbia gave me deep reservations about the ability of human beings to respond to peace, when peace itself is considered a dirty word.

The discussion, run by the inimitable One World Week Forum team, was one of the most intellectually stimulating two hours of my time at Warwick. There was no room for rhetoric or dogma in the packed out Woods-Scawen Room of the Arts Centre, as each speaker eloquently gave a unique and intellectual take on the topic. One of my personal highlights was the presentation by Hull PhD student, Zhaleh Boyd, who discussed the ever present danger of slavery or trafficking in our society.

She commented: ‘The existence of slavery is dependent on the process of constructing otherness – the use of these differences allow certain minorities to have power over others.’ Her conclusion reflected the fact that race and religion were tools to differentiate individuals from their common values, and to focus on obscure, physical details in order to manipulate them. It was a frightening thought. The fact that someone’s name, skin colour, strength, place of birth, sex could be used to dehumanise them, and it is even more frightening that in some societies it is more commonplace than we think.

The most interesting aspect of the debate for me was the idea that religion and rationality could be used in the same sentence. It has been clear to me, especially living in a secular society, that those who have religious or spiritual beliefs are deemed to be irrational. It was refreshing to sit in a room with academics that could see the merit or religion in a world that seems to be constantly fighting it.

There is rationality in race and religion even if we choose to ignore it. Our very own chaplain, Rev Dr Alistair Kirk said: ‘The world is a religious place’ and we cannot continue to undermine this fact. We have to learn to embrace the fact that religion and race continue to do good in parts of the world that we have no contact with, with work that is funded on pittance and beans. Where only faith endures.

Even from the prosperity of One World Week itself, we can see that diversity is celebrated and promoted at a multicultural university. It is now time that our attitudes shifted towards maintaining these attitudes throughout the year. This is the legacy the co-ordinators hope to create.

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