Published May 29, 2012
A book written by Pulitzer Center grantees Karl Meyer and Shareen Brysac received praise in a review for The Washington Post by David Scheffer, former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues and now professor at Northwestern University School of Law.
In "Pax Ethnica: Where and How Diversity Succeeds," published by PublicAffairs in March 2012, Meyer and Brysac traveled to five countries to explore how people of different backgrounds can live together peacefully. The two-year excursion, funded in part by the Pulitzer Center, took them to India, Russian, France, Germany and New York.
Scheffer lauds the idea for the project, saying, "This book should inspire wandering spirits to discover other ethnically harmonious cities and regions and spread the word: 'reasonable accommodation' can work, gloriously."
Meyer and Brysac first traveled to Germany, exploring the city of Flensburg, near the border with Denmark, where a 1955 treaty mandated the preservation of Danish and other minority cultures, an agreement still upheld today. In India, they studied the state of Kerala, which has become a beacon for religious harmony. Its 32 million inhabitants—of whom 56 percent are Hindu, 25 percent Muslim and 19 percent Christian—may live in one of India's poorest state, but they have a high literacy rate, outstanding colleges and excellent medical care.
Meyer and Brysac wrote about their findings in India for the Pulitzer Center-sponsored project, "India: The Kerala Model."
Their next destination, the Republic of Tatarstan in Russia, is also a model for religious coexistence. There, Sunni Muslims, Russian Orthodox Christians and other religious minorities live together peacefully. In Marseilles, France, they found that the identity of being "Marseillais" trumps that of belonging to any of the 27 ethnic groups who inhabit the city. And lastly, in the New York borough of Queens, the authors looked at how its 2.3 million residents manage to get along in more than 130 languages.
Scheffer ends his review with his favorite advice from the book, "Fear not the persistence of minority tongues." He says of the line, "Could someone please whisper that in the ear of politicians across this incredibly diverse land as they campaign to preserve E pluribus unum?"
To read Scheffer's full review for The Washington Post, click here.