A Lost History of Convivencia --- Coexistence! May 29, 2019 by Tasneem Sultan
In the summer of 2018, I went with my family on an inspiring trip to Spain, the land of coexistence and mutual understanding between Muslims, Jews, Christians and many other ethnicities during the Medieval times. This unique period of time was labeled La Convivencia - the ‘Golden Age’, where Abrahamic faiths worked together to create one of the most advanced civilizations that cemented a tolerant culture for the European Renaissance. During this remarkable time in history, Jews, Christians, and Muslims created a shared cultural identity that surpassed their religious differences and built a philosophy of open-mindedness among them. As a result, a pluralistic culture was developed called La Convivencia, means coexistence. The monuments built during this time tell the story of a rich history of coexistence among diverse cultures and faiths. That era was a time of cultural exchange, scientific exploration, mutual understanding, and coexistence that benefited the society as whole. Science, mathematics, astronomy, and art thrived in the libraries and colleges of Cordoba. The surrounding ethnics assimilated into the food, music, language, etc. of the Arabic culture and vice versa. Learning and knowledge were highly regarded and many scientists, poets, architects came to Spain from all over Europe during this time period for greater learning. Maimonides’s, a famous Jewish philosopher, writings reflects Arabian style. Many people from different backgrounds also assisted in translating the ancient Greek literature. The diversity of thoughts, beliefs, and perceptions illuminated the cultures of Al- Andalus. Toledo, known as the city of “three cultures”, refers to a city where the three religions (Jews, Christians, and Muslims) harmonized together. Walking on the hilly narrow streets, we see churches, next to synagogues, next to mosques. The architecture in Zaragoza, Sevilla, Granada, Cordoba, and Toledo was inspired by people of all faiths, showing the coexistence among three civilizations. This trip was an opportunity to look back in history and learn a lesson of living together. La Convivencia is a story of past that resonate today, a story of coexistence, collaboration, and fear. This story reminds us that by giving respect and understanding to each other’s faiths and cultural traditions, we can build trust and work together for the betterment of our society. It is analogous to the diversity present in America today and we can use La Convivencia as an inspirational guide as to make our American society more inclusive, accepting, and peaceful. Our shared humanity and values bond us together. We need to grow positive relationships that lead to breaking the cycle of stereotypes and hate present in our communities. It's a collective effort that leads to change the narrative of our story. We have to make the right choices and get involved, or we can sit or take no action and let hate controls us. La Convivencia is a nonprofit organization to create connections, break stereotypes, and build peace. It builds trust and strong relationships among diverse citizenry through mutual understating, dialogue, and service. Coexistence as once possible, and we can do it again. More than ever, we need to come together and do our part. Let’s keep the light of co-existence burning. Join the peaceful movement for a peaceful coexistence to make our world a peaceful place!