“Why is a program like MOSAIC so important in today’s world?”

I recently decided that it was no longer acceptable that an avid reader like myself had never picked up J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series. After having read Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, and even Twilight, I finally allowed Tolkien to guide me through his world of adventurous hobbits, enchanted forests, and powerful rings. Amid these fantasies, I found inspiring examples of tolerance and respect among the least likely of companions. Even though dwarves and elves have been rivals for centuries, Legolas and Gimli did not let that stop them from becoming good friends. Together, along with four hobbits, two men, and a wizard, they make up the Fellowship of the Ring. Legolas and Gimli could have avoided each other, disagreed at every debate, and refused to defend the other in battle. But they took the opposite route. If they had upheld the rivalry, they would have endangered the entire quest by creating a hopeless atmosphere.

My favorite moment between Legolas and Gimli happens when the group enters the enchanted land of Lothlorien, a sacred place for the elves. The guards at the gates of Lothlorien do not trust Gimli, and mandate the dwarf to wear a blindfold as he walks through the forest. In protest of this discrimination and in solidarity with the dwarf, Legolas and the other travelers all walked in darkness. The elven guards were eventually instructed by their Queen, in a monumental gesture, to remove Gimli’s blindfold and treat him as an equal.

This is why we need efforts like MOSAIC. People must learn that it is a choice whether or not they pay attention to stereotypes. At every opportunity where a stereotype can be enforced, it can also be dissolved. We can choose to allow differences like religion to separate us, or we can use them to unite us. Furthermore, we cannot ignore religion in order to establish a fragile friendship; only in acknowledging and celebrating those differences can we move on. This is another of MOSAIC’s virtues: it brings people together to celebrate what we are taught to fear. If Legolas was blind to Gimli’s identity, he would never be able to truly consider the dwarf a friend or appreciate his skill with an axe. Likewise, if Gimli had closed himself to Legolas’s qualities, he never would have realized the beauty of the elven lands and their rulers who welcomed him with open arms. Beauty lies in the diversity between cultural identities, as many of us have learned through MOSAIC.

If you are an elf, I encourage you to befriend a dwarf, and vice versa. I believe that this understanding through friendship is the only way to purify the world of its hatred. If we are to defeat the evil in this world, we must honor programs like MOSAIC for proving that bias is a choice. And we at MOSAIC-the dedicated founders, students, parents, and clergy-have chosen against bias by joining together in the hopes of a better future.

© 2017 InterFaith Monmouth Center
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