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When differences make the difference

February 26, 2010

I spent the last few days wondering about what made the Conference on Freedom of Expression in the Digital Age such a special event. Was it the unique location? Was it the agenda, so challenging and interesting? Was it the community of active journalists sharing opinions and experiences?

I’m sure its success was due to all these things together, but what made it such an unforgettable and inspiring event was the special mixture of cultures, religions, insights meeting there.

Some friends of mine asked me how I would describe my experience by using only one word. Amazing? Great? Interesting? Yes, it was amazing, great, interesting, indeed. But that word is “Difference”.
People sharing common interests on journalism and its future met there from all over the world and what made the discussion vivid and fruitful was the difference in backgrounds, experiences, geographical locations and perceptions on the topics discussed.

The word “difference” can be very dangerous and it’s often used with a negative connotation, thus enhancing stereotypes and misconceptions. But what if we shift the point of view and perceive difference as a richness and not as a barrier? We would probably find out a whole world of opportunities and new ways to interpret and describe the world out there.

I believe there’s no need to hide differences: differences are real and we cope with them everyday. People are different, cultures are different, traditions are different. But that doesn’t mean they cannot live together and this is what makes the world that surprising.

Changing perspective and giving a positive connotation to the word “difference” is the first step towards understanding. And journalists play a big part in that.

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. Lucy Chumbley permalink
    February 26, 2010 4:38 pm

    vive la différence!

  2. Tarek Mounir permalink
    February 26, 2010 5:54 pm

    Differenza può essere buona se non c’è comprensione reciproca tra i diversi persone, è corretto ?!

  3. Tarek Mounir permalink
    February 26, 2010 6:02 pm

    “Mutual-Bridging” shall embrace “Difference” so dearly as one successful couple.

  4. February 27, 2010 8:56 am

    Hi Tarek! Le differenze sono positive se c’è comprensione reciproca tra diverse persone!
    There must be understanding to make differences good and positive!

    I like the idea of £embracing dearly” as one successful couple!

  5. February 27, 2010 9:57 am

    Elisa, I understand your point and I know that diversity makes life interesting but don’t u think that we should all be looking for common ground. Human beings are human beings and religious or cultural differences are only surface. We all bleed the same and thats what we should be looking for……

    • February 27, 2010 10:10 am

      I agree with you on the importance of looking for common ground. That’s fundamental, but sometimes people act as there was no diversity and I think this is not the right way to create mutual understanding. The awareness of difference and the willingness to search for common ground can bring people together and permit different cultures, traditions, religions to live together.
      Of course human beings are human beings, but differences exist and we can’t just act as they didn’t exist because we are all human beings.
      In my opinion searching for common ground doesn’t mean deleting differences. It means accepting differences without considering them a limit or a barrier.

  6. Sasa Milosevic permalink
    February 27, 2010 5:25 pm

    Dear Elisa
    The Conference in Alexandria showed that we were so different but so similar same.
    Different in origin, countries of living, ages but same in aims and professional dreams.
    Differences have inspirited us to explore and to search for similarities.
    Differences gave us fun and unforgettable happening.

  7. February 28, 2010 4:00 am

    You are s right Sasa.
    This is why diversity is so precious.

  8. Aroosa permalink
    February 28, 2010 2:57 pm

    Well said. Thats what makes us journalists different – we celebrate diversity without letting it become a barrier 🙂

    • Elisa Di Benedetto permalink
      February 28, 2010 3:12 pm

      I like it, Aroosa.

      Respect – which is fundamental to combat stereotypes and promote cross-cultural cooperation – is founded on the awareness of the existence of different point of views. Without respect and mutual awareness we wouldn’t probably have mutual understanding and dialogue.

  9. March 1, 2010 5:31 am

    “Difference is not dangerous” but making deference is dangerous among people. You are right ,I agree that different people of different culture with different tradition along different Religious can live together if they finished this difference among them .Journalist can play their vital role to finish the difference among different people.

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