Last week we had the honor to attend, participate and present at the Nineteenth International Conference on Diversity in Organizations, Communities & Nations at the University of Patras in Patras, Greece. This conference has a history of bringing together practitioners and scholars who are deeply committed to issues of diversity, inclusion and equity.
This year the theme was: “Border Crossing Narratives: Learning from the Refugee Experience.” Border crossing and its narratives are politically defined in public discourse. We engaged in intercultural learning in the wake of the global refugee crises and total globalization. The concept of “global othering” has become part of the rhetoric that views these individuals as a threat to identities, institutions and society at large.
The diversity of the narratives themselves was on display: a scholar examining the impact of waiting in the Transgender community; a local activist creating loving community for refugee children to tell their stories of loss and tragedy through art and movement; a nurse caring for refugees who are in need of their insulin, their chemotherapy drugs or just a warm blanket; and a non-profit organization who illuminated the voices and faces of refugees in the streets of their community.
They all shared powerful narratives that gave us the chance to open our hearts and minds to the journey marginalized individuals endure – under the most horrific of circumstances. Most importantly – just as the city of Patras built the longest multi-span bridge from Rio-Antirrio – these narratives built bridges from ethno-centrism to ethno-relativism, from hate to love, and from skepticism to conviction.
Narratives are powerful agents of change.