I went to the Human Rights Conference 2015 at the Heritage Center this last weekend. Each and every one of the speakers exceeded my expectations. I learned about human trafficking within our state, the fight for women’s rights in Afghanistan and our perception of other cultures within our community. I can talk your ear off about many different points that were made at the conference but in light of the world we are currently living in I wanted to share a specific piece I learned. This piece has settled in my soul and I will cherish it for all time. Scott Davis, a proud Native American and human rights worker in our community, spoke about the sacredness of the eagle feather in his culture. He spoke of his journey to work with the public school district to allow Native American children to wear their eagle feathers at their graduation ceremony. Seems simple, right? Well it wasn’t and the journey took many years. This spring he received a letter saying that the public school system approved the eagle feather as part of the ceremonial robe for Native American students. While explaining this journey to us he said (sorry, not exact quote but the message is the same), “You cannot represent this (holding his eagle feather) with anger or hate, it is sacred.” You cannot burst into an office and swing the feather around angrily to try to make a point. It disgraces the sacredness of the feather.
There is so much violence and anger in the world surrounding us everyday. Beheadings, wars, genocide… we are so surrounded we are becoming apathetic. This week I heard of the Ethiopian Christians who were killed in Libya. How do we begin to wrap our heads around any of this? Ethiopia has been a country where Muslims and Christians have lived side-by-side for generations. PEACEFULLY. They understand the sacredness of each religion and choose not to represent them with hate and violence.
Scott spoke that the only way to represent sacredness is education and acceptance of differences. We do see color, we are different and that is beautiful. We need to stop pretending we are living in a homogenous society and embrace the difference. We need to sit down and educate each other about our differences, we need to get uncomfortable to become comfortable. Ask honest questions and allow yourself to be asked. Don’t allow yourself to take offense because most questions are really just simply questions and what a better opportunity to then educate.
You may be wondering how this applies to Haiti… While Scott was talking about heartfelt, candid conversations I thought about our lunch dates with Manuchca and Dr. Turenne. The four of us sat around and educated and learned. We cannot go into Haiti or into lunch and stand on our soapbox and proclaim our ways are the only ways that can work. We are different and that is sacred. One is not better than another and we are all in this together. Without openness on all sides the differences that make us unique become barriers that divide us.