Below is a short piece from HasNa’s founder and President, Nevzer Stacey:

Today, most places in the world are struggling with integration.  The reason is that we have not paid much attention to the meaning of the word. 

Integration does not simply mean that we put different things together.  It does not mean that it happens naturally either. To integrate is not a passive word, but an active verb.  We have to make an effort to achieve the goal.  People on both sides of the equation need to work hard in understanding and respecting the other side.

As we all know, no individual is exactly like the other.  We may have similarities, and differences.  As the world continues to change, we have a tendency to get worried about losing our identity.   There lies the problem. Is it really a problem or is it an opportunity for growth?

Let me try to explain what I mean by integration.  If we decide to make a dish and we have few vegetables, we are pretty sure what each vegetable tastes like.  We have less of an idea what the taste would be like if we mixed them all together.  The challenge is to find out what different combinations of vegetables will produce.  So, we experiment.   Some people will like certain combinations, others will prefer other combinations.  What is so interesting is that the way we integrate them will produce different results.  Thus there will be more choices for people and fewer conflicts to fight over.

In recent times, our views on ethnicity and culture have been threatened by a heightened philosophy of patriotism that seeks to homogenize our tastes. Under such circumstances, it is even more important for civil society organizations operating at grassroots levels to ensure that multiculturalism is not replaced by a coercive form of assimilation. This is by no means a ground-breaking idea: that a multi-ethnic society could attain cohesion based on national solidarity while also maintaining distinct cultural histories was proposed all the way back in the early 1900s.

For this reason, organizations such as HasNa Inc. aim to work with ethnically divided communities to gradually build peace and mutual understanding between them. Integration lies at the core of HasNa’s mission: we help communities understand the importance of unity in diversity. Through our bi-communal capacity-building programs, we also demonstrate how peace can be profitable. Food metaphors aside, there is an increasing need to focus our attention on new dialogue on the subject of integration and the different ways in which we can attain a truly inclusive national identity.