Crossing Borders

Faith & Tolerance

…discussing the issues and working toward change is by far preferable than doing nothing. Progress will not be made unless efforts to achieve understanding continue.

Thoughts on Faith and Tolerance

Sheldon Thompson

Growing up in Minnesota in the 1950’s and early 60’s was somewhat monolithic, culturally. People of northern European decent, and Scandinavians in particular, made up the bulk of the population. There were not many African Americans living in the Minneapolis suburbs and none attended my high school. Yet, we believed that “all men were created equal” and deplored the segregation existing in the Southern U.S. at that time. Prejudice was taught to be evil in our schools. Many Minnesotans were activists in the civil rights movement.

Attending the University of Minnesota brought me in contact with multiculturalism for the first time. I took advantage of opportunities to interact with students from other parts of the world. The summer of my junior year, I traveled to Europe with a group of students which opened my eyes to another part of the world. I found it “hard to believe” that the beautiful countryside that I was viewing had been a bloody battlefield when I was a child of five. However, the signs of war were still abundant in 1959.

Being a Christian, I had heard the words of Christ when he said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the Sons of God.” Peacemaking was a worthy calling and yet I didn’t see myself as being an activist participating in marches and carrying signs such as, “BAN THE BOMB,” “BETTER RED THAN DEAD,” or “MAKE LOVE NOT WAR.” I saw peacemaking as a more thoughtful and personal process. In my view, peacemaking proceeds by education, personal commitment and reasoned influence.

Working at Sunoco gave the opportunity to participate in diversity programs, form close relationships with African Americans and gain insight into the problems of the Middle East. What I learned is that making gains is a very slow process. People on both sides of issues hold very strong beliefs and have legitimate grievances. However, discussing the issues and working toward change is by far preferable than doing nothing. Progress will not be made unless efforts to achieve understanding continue.

Progress has been made in my lifetime – from the segregation of the 1950’s to my son living in a very diverse, upscale neighborhood in a Chicago suburb with Asians, Hispanics and an African American family living next door. In Ireland, a tenuous peace still holds. We are no longer engaged in cold war with Russia, but strains remain. South Africa has made significant progress. Many other hopeful signs exist.

However, many struggles remain around the globe. Intercultural Journeys is dedicated to opening the hearts of both sides of conflict through music and other art forms followed by constructive dialogue. I believe that this is a very meaningful and productive way to make progress on solving divisive issues. In the long run, it is the only way to achieve lasting peace.

Peace Mural. Derry City, Northern Ireland

Peace Mural. Derry City, Northern Ireland

Here are links to articles and events that we hope you will find interesting and thought provoking.

Is the Qur’an hostile to Jews and Christians? (From Common Ground News Service)
When violence is committed in the name of Islam, the perpetrators often say that Muslims were never meant to enjoy good relations with followers of other religions, specifically Jews and Christians.

More about Creativity for Peace:

When you seek to cross borders you open yourself and others to a new realm of possibilities, new dreams to be explored, new friendships to be made. Taking this adventurous step can be exhilarating, well met and appreciated. It can also be met with fear, distrust, anger and even reproach. Intercultural Journeys uses artistic endeavors and inspiring discussions to cross borders - between nations and between people.