LIVING IN a multicultural society could be a main reason for accepting others. And accepting others could be a main reason for having a multicultural society.
It has been debated that immigration is a major contributor to diversity, but the way it impacts the host countries differ from one to another. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau once said, “Diversity is Canada’s strength.” And Canada has been celebrating diversity since 1971, when it became the first country in the world to enact an official policy of multiculturalism, showing how valued diversity is in Canada.
The department of economic and social affairs of the United Nations stated that in 2015, the concentration of international migrants was found in 10 countries. Saudi Arabia and Canada were both on the list.
Surprisingly, Saudi Arabia ranked in 4th place by hosting (10 million) migrants, followed by the United kingdom (9 million), the United Arab Emirates (8 million), and Canada in 7th place, hosting (7.8 million).
People are travelling more than any time before. Moreover, we’re experiencing different cultures even without traveling to every country that we wish. Now, we can learn languages and traditions, we can listen to music, we can even talk to people from all around the world without any boundaries or limitations. The whole world is moving toward being more diversified, but numbers don’t measure it accurately.
Over time, immigration has helped in introducing cultures to each other, but did it make people more accepting of other cultures? Multiculturalism is a long educational process that leads to learning where other cultures came from, and why they are practicing their cultures in a certain way. Therefore, it leads to better understanding of other cultures. Some immigrants move to countries that are truly welcoming them, others move to countries and struggle to live there.
Is it the country that has the main impact on attracting immigrants? Or is it the host culture that determines whether people from different cultures are welcomed? Or is it the immigrants who bring change to the host culture to become more accepting over the time?
Saudi has a population of 30 million, of whom 10 million are immigrants, and almost all of them are employed. This high number has been a great contributor to the economic prosperity of Saudi. At the same time, it has been challenging, and it has an impact on every Saudi citizen. Nowadays, people are interacting, questioning, studying, and working with people from different cultures. There are more marriages of people from different cultures. But this kind of change is happening slowly, especially when compared to a country like Canada. Now, I see immigration as a factor that will help us gradually to become more accepting of different cultures. Even if we don’t see that as clear as in Canada, we are both moving toward the same point, in a different pace.
Immigration is growing rapidly around the world, and it benefits a lot, but it shouldn’t be taken for granted. With the unsustainable political and economic situations, numbers of immigrants could start declining at any time. The real challenge to the host countries is to make the most of the current status. And the desired development impact of immigration won’t be achieved without making immigrants feel welcomed to integrate into the host cultural environment — which could be another challenge.
Now I believe that diversity is not a decision that could be made by governments, it is a decision that should be made by every individual, to know about the ‘other’, and to accept it.
Yes, immigration has a huge impact on a country’s economy but, more importantly, on its view toward the ‘other’. This change doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time. But it could get faster when people realize how much we need to accept each other in a world full of wars.
Nada Alsalahi is a Saudi Arabian student enrolled in the Journalism program at Thompson Rivers University.