Fostering of "Unity-in-Diversity"
Comenius as Mestizo, cont.
the same time, we need to recognize that the growing number of
poor people in the United States is disproportionately characterized
by people of color. Unless this trend is reversed, we run the risk
of becoming a country in which white minorities permanently dominate
political, socio-economic decision-making structures. In my book,
I discuss the implications of the Latino heritage for controversial
contemporary issues such as bilingual education, racial/ethnic
gerrymandering of political districts, affirmative action, housing,
immigration, and globalization.
for the increasing number of us who “cross borders” daily
in our neighborhood associations, nonprofit organizations, businesses,
governments, and church communities, it is imperative to draw
upon heritages that offer a democratic engagement of multiculturalism.
I have found that if one can communicate the notion of “unity-in-diversity” in
terms that are authoritative for a particular ethnic or religious
community, then one is more likely to catalyze the attention
and commitment of the members of that group. Put otherwise, one
expand the comfort zone of people’s orientations in order
to get them to change their practices in a constructive way.
the case of the Moravian heritage, an excellent resource is
the life and work of John Amos Comenius. At first glance, Comenius’ pursuit
of a unifying order (pansophy) seems completely inappropriate
to a postmodern age that stresses relativism and diversity.
believe that his ecumenical spirit toward languages, cultures,
and other Christian denominations demonstrates a Moravian articulation
sought a universal order, grounded in Christ, that still respected
distinct tongues, cultures, and
the importance of teaching children their native language
and culture, the customs of different nations, and a universal
it Latin or one artificially created. As a pastor, he preached
in both German and Czech, for his congregations were composed
of both peoples. I think he’d take a dim view of those
who oppose bilingual education and espouse “English
Indeed, today in Central America, Alaska, and Labrador, Moravians
struggle to preserve their Miskitu, Yupik, and Inuktitut
insisted upon toleration rather than separatist or sectarian
strife. An exile for 42 of his 78 years because
Years War and its aftermath, he was relentless in his commitment
to seeking “unity-in-diversity.” He
maintained that overcoming prejudice had to begin with
the self. Reform then could spread in a concentric fashion
and ultimately to other Christian groups. This panharmonic
principle could ultimately tear down the walls between
cultures and countries.
Comenius envisioned a world community in which
local differences would be respected and encouraged.
Even in his
guidelines for missionary
work, Comenius insisted that evangelization ensue from
an emphasis on the educational and cultural attributes
evangelized, as exemplified by the Jesuit missions in
Paraguay and Chile. His praise for their work, by the way, is
another illustration of his ecumenical generosity.
greater testament to this apostle of ecumenism and universal
education could there be than to recast his
for “the global village” of the next century?
Essentially, if we are to realize an egalitarian mestizo
democracy, we need
to bring into dialogue those normative heritages—Comenius’ legacy,
in the case of the Moravians—that accent the
cultivation of human dignity and the common good through
crossings.” This moral outlook is imperative
in an age in which our politics are paralyzed by preemptive
strikes and terrorist
counterattacks. Indeed, outlooks that accent combining
multiple cultures in a way that leaves none dominant
over the others offer
a constructive counterpoint to the ideas and practices
of racists and xenophobes.
amend a very Moravian saying: “If we are to have a democratic
future it will, in essentials, be one of unity-in-diversity.”
John Francis Burke is associate professor of political science
at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas. He visited the
Lehigh Valley in March to lead workshops in diversity for several
community and religious groups. He spoke at Moravian on March 3.
The illustration above is a portrait of Comenius by the Bohemian
historical painter Vaclav Brocik (painted 1892).