Multiculturalism, social diversity and tolerance

Brazil 2019.jpeg

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Unsplash, 2018)

This article was exclusively written for the The European Sting by Ms. Bárbara Okabaiasse Luizeti, a third year medical student from Brazil. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

Cultural formation from Social Institutions (Family, School, Church) permeates the individual throughout his development process, adds in personal and cultural identity, manifesting from habits, attitudes and policies.

If you feel as part of something, having cultural and religious ideologies similar to those of the people around, you can bring comfort, but at the same time passivity in the face of attitudes that hurt human rights. In addition, the contact between civilizations with distinct cultural identities often brings with them incomprehension, prejudice and ethnocentrism.

The individual often grew up in a social enviroment that strongly advocated the protection and perpetuation of his culture and religion. This aspect, when added to an egocentric personal identity, can result in various types of aggression when faced with people of different cultures. This applies throughout human history.

For example, the Genocide of indigenous peoples in Brazil, whose territory was occupied by the formation of a new nation-state by a colonial power, which considered the natives a “primitive generation”. Cultural shock was evident, cultural understanding no longer.

The term “Discovery of Brazil” refers to the official arrival, on April 22, 1500, of the fleet commanded by Pedro Álvares Cabral to the Brazilian territory. Does something bother you in this widely used term? Because it should.

The word “discovery” ignores the existence of indigenous peoples in that place and refers to those who “discovered” as holders of a superior culture and categorical religion, indifferent to indigenous cultures. Indigenous populations have been seen as a large contingent to be indoctrinated, so today this view is perpetuated in many places in Brazil, and makes these populations vulnerable to acculturation, prejudice and physical/psychological aggression.

On the other hand, a person with an empathic personal identity, facing a distinct culture, can feel curious and respectful. This is the case of the “Maria Luisa Project”, conceived in May 2017, by Professor Márcia Kamei, based on the need to know and help indigenous people from the city of Maringá, in the state of Paraná, Brazil.

In it, we health volunteers and academics experience incredible involvement with indigenous tribes every weekend, when we can learn a little about their local customs and also pass on health information, it is an impressive exchange of cultures. We also distribute food, furniture, clothing and basic hygiene products collected at university events and donations.

Many tribes are displaced because of growth of cities in territories that were once their home, where they grew their own food and bought their medicines. Now they depend on the sale of ornaments and handicrafts in the city to survive.

We should have this empathy and respect, which may be characteristic of an inherent personality or apprehended in their social environment. This learning requires the effort of society as a whole, the dissemination of projects and the elaboration of local, regional, national and global actions/policies that stimulate the search for an understanding of multiculturalism.

The aim should be the understanding of cultural differences, and respect for the plurality of ethnicities.

About the author

Bárbara Okabaiasse Luizeti is 19 years old and a third year medical student. She is working as Vice President of the Miguel Nicolelis Academic Center, LPR-D (Local Officer on Publications and Research Director) at IFMSA Brazil UniCesumar and Vice President of the Academic League of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology of Maringá (LAOOM). She has always been dedicated to helping vulnerable populations from extracurricular projects, and disseminating health information to lay people and academics.














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