Sunday, 25 December 2011

Building Bridges

Ever since I was a child, I have always considered the Christmas season as a time of the year during which we ought to display our best qualities as human beings. Throughout the year, many people often end up burying themselves in their own personal matters without paying much attention to the community or the world they live in. Furthermore, there is little doubt that ignorance, misunderstandings, and various prejudices frequently lead to a degree of hostility or indifference when it comes to several relationships. As an imperfect human being, I am not immune from making mistakes, but the Christmas season serves as a reminder that I could do more for the community I live in. That I could start talking to a person once again in order to replace anger or ignorance with empathy and care or friendship.

Last Friday, I was contacted by one of my North Korean friends. Following the recent loss of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) much-admired Leader - Kim Jong Il - my friend invited me to meet him and some other friends to express our condolences formally. I did not hesitate. He picked me up from Ta' Xbiex and we went to an apartment in Qawra. Inside this barely-furnished apartment, there was a room with a portrait of Kim Jong Il hanging on the wall. Below the portrait, there were some beautiful flowers and wreaths displaying messages in Korean. Two young men stood guard on each side. A small video camera was recording the whole event. After bowing in front of the portrait (the Korean way of showing respect), I signed the visitor's book. We then went to have dinner at a restaurant in Ta' Xbiex.

Although I had already witnessed the generosity of my North Korean friends over the past year or so, I was impressed when they told me that they wanted to pay for my dinner. Even though they were not drinking any alcohol due to the mourning period, they insisted on buying a small bottle of wine for me. One of my friends even told me to order anything I wanted since they wanted to see me happy. They even gave me a number of gifts (see the photo above). Many of the gifts are DVDs from the DPRK. One of them is a movie (The Kites Flying in the Sky) with English subtitles. Such items are extremely hard to find outside the DPRK and I was so grateful for the fact that they showered me with such nice things!

During the few hours that we spent together, we talked about many topics. We exchanged our views on religion, the huge food portions served in many restaurants in Malta, illegal immigration, and other issues.

As I had dinner with my friends from the DPRK, I thought about all the negative things that are said about the country and its people. I thought about all the hatred that is directed against the DPRK. And I wondered about how much better this world would be if more people replaced their ignorance and hatred with knowledge and care.

On this Christmas Day, I encourage people all over the world to look at each other as part of a single family. Although each person and each government has their flaws, let us focus our energies on making positive differences. Let us sow peace and unity rather than hatred and division. Let us engage in building bridges rather than burning them!

Merry Christmas to All!