''Anti-Semitic attack in France'', ''Islamophobia in the USA'', ''ISIS destroys church'' - These are all examples of the headlines that we have become very accustomed to reading everyday in the news. On a daily basis, we are bombarded with so many stories that paint a picture of intolerance and hate, that after a while we begin to have the impression that people simply cannot coexist in peace. Of course, it is true that intolerance and bigotry exist everywhere and that they work like viruses, infecting peoples' minds and making them believe that  anything, whether an opinion or a physical trait, that is different from them is something bad and something to be feared.

I, among many others who are constantly exposed to negativity and prejudice, always wonder what the best way to combat this sort of hatred may be. The classical approach and the answer that is consistently given, on a universal level, is always the same - education - but widespread educational reform is most certainly not something that is in the hands of the individuals who make up the general public, so it is not a sufficient answer. We can only educate ourselves, and to some extent, those around us. What we can and should all do, alongside continuously teaching and learning, is to share examples that contrast greatly from stories of anger and hatred. We can share stories and images from around the world that illustrate an optimistic world where unity and diversity are our strongest assets.

To practice what I preach, this is my account about the Gardens of Tolerance, a unique and special place built in 2004. Located in Belek, Antalya, a small town full of tourist resorts and top-notch hotels on Turkey's southern Mediterranean coast, this Garden is the location of a synagogue, a church, and a mosque, all side by side. It provides me with great solace to know that such places exist, especially when taking into consideration that there are less than 400 miles of distance between this sanctuary and areas in Syria controlled by ISIS. This reflects two alternate narratives of the world, one of intolerance and chaos, and another of peace and coexistence. It also presents an alternative view of the Middle East, a region that is always shown to be the site of bloodshed and war. It is up to us to promote the narrative that we see fit for our future, and we should all work on building the societies we want to live in, without allowing our vision of togetherness and unity to get hijacked by the constant intolerance that is pumped into our lives every day.

 

Published by Kenan Cruz Cilli