13 August 2007

Working Against Cultural Bigotry

It is International Blog Against Racism Week and since cultural and religious based bigotry often coincide with racism and the week coincides with the arrival of the AFS exchange students to Alaska I thought I would share with you why I am proud to be a volunteer with this organization and why I think it makes a difference.

AFS is an intercultural, non-governmental organization that promotes intercultural learning through worldwide exchange programs for students, adults, and families. AFS flies no single flag, represents no single ideology or national objective, and speaks no single language. It was founded by volunteer ambulance driver's in World War I who thought that if people knew each other and had a better understanding of each other's cultures there would be less need to go to war. It is now the oldest exchange program in the world and is still run primarily by volunteers.

"AFS enables people to act as responsible, global citizens working for peace and understanding in a diverse world. It acknowledges that peace is a dynamic concept threatened by injustice, inequality, and intolerance.

AFS seeks to affirm faith in the dignity and worth of every human being and of all nations and cultures. It encourages respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms without distinction as to race, sex, language, religion, or social status."

My Dog & Cat in inter-species communication

One of the things that makes me very proud of AFS is the organizations reaction to the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks. This event showed AFS-USA that there is clearly a huge rift of understanding between Muslim & Judeo-Christian cultural groups and nations. We discussed how can AFS increase understanding between these groups? We decided to create a scholarship particularly aimed at exchanging students & teachers between nations that are predominantly one or the other, in other words, encourage non-Muslims to go on exchange to Muslim based nations and non-Judeo-Christians to go on exchange to Judeo-Christian based nations. These students will learn amazing things about the other cultures and their own but more importantly is that they will connect with people and when they return to their home countries they will share those connections with their communities. These connections make it harder to generalize and scapegoat the group because the group has a face and a name and a history.


  1. now see this is a Just Post. In fact, I am grabbing the link now.

    And to answer your question - we host a monthly roundtable of all posts written about social issues/justice. folks can send in their own posts or ones they like that others have written. no nominations necessary, all you have to do is write. um, like this.

  2. This is really good.. and the thought occurs to me that it is so refreshing to hear about organizations that are not controlled by the US or its interests.

    There are so many other places in the world.. with so many new approaches.. and seemingly more inclusive ones.

    I hope Thailand is participating.



  3. What a great organization. But I am still caught up by the utter cuteness of that photo!!!

  4. jen~ Oh. Okay. I was wondering. And where do we send them? Just post them on your blog?

    chani ~ Thailand is indeed participating! In fact 3 of the lovely students in Alaska this year are from Thailand.

    painted maypole ~ isn't it though? It's not really pertinent to the post but I had to work it in somehow.

  5. Hey there,

    If you haven't done so already, you should check out:


    AFS has organized a petition to promote world peace through more intercultural exchanges. Sign it and pass it along to everyone you know.



  6. My high school years were more tolerable because of the exchange students we had enrolled for the year, anywhere from five to eight kids. It was nice to learn that the world is larger and more interesting than what lies within our nation's borders.

    Looks like there is hope for feline-pooch relations improving as well.

  7. dj kirby ~ thanks!

    william ~ yep, I have done so and now you have alerted my readers! Welcome.

    ms chica ~ as you point out the experience is just as important for all of the people those exchange students interact with!

  8. AFS sounds wonderful. Studying abroad for one year during my undergrad years completely changed my perception of the world in the best way. I was twenty when I had that experience; I imagine it must be even more potent to live in a different country at a younger age. What brave young people! If AFS needs any volunteers in Fairbanks, I'd love to help. :D


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