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A day for reaching out.

If you ask someone what is the biggest issue to be addressed in today's world they might suggest the Middle East, overpopulation, global warming, the gap between rich and poor, the impact of globalization or any one of dozens more seemingly intractable problems.

Few can doubt that improved human relationships would increase the chance of global cooperation on some of the problems that, at first sight, may seem purely technical.

But whose job is it to build bridges across divided communities or between rivals? Reaching out to `the other' is so important that it cannot be left to politicians and academics alone.

If every person could meet someone from `the other group', away from the spotlight and without an agenda, it could be the first step in opening up a dialogue, and perhaps discovering that he or she has qualities on which a basis of understanding could be built.

It would be a long journey from such individual contacts to building better relations between different religious and ethnic groups, let alone nations, but, as the proverb says, `The longest journey starts with the first step.'

A realistic first step is being promoted by Initiatives of Change. 1 June this year is being designated as a reaching-out day, with the theme, `Open homes, listening hearts'. Everyone, in whatever country he or she lives, is being asked to open their heart and home to a person, family or group from a community different from their own and with whom they would not normally interact. This will mean crossing religious, ethnic, tribal or social barriers, and being open to hearing the other person's concerns, views and assumptions even--or perhaps especially--where they are contrary to our own. It will be an honest attempt to break down stereotypes and make a contribution, however small, to bridging global divisions.

In this issue of FAC we feature some who have reached out to people of other cultures and religions. Through their initiatives they have enriched others and they have themselves been enriched. Reaching out involves risk. You may be misunderstood by your own side, or by the other. But history shows that the risk can often be worth taking.
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Copyright 2002, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Initiatives for Change declares June 1st to be a day for cultural understanding
Author:Noble, Kenneth
Publication:For A Change
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Apr 1, 2002
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