Love gives everything graphic

International Solidarity Reflection

Respect for Diversity

October 2023

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What do I mean when I speak about Respect for Diversity? It means in our society, all people, regardless of gender, age, religion, or origin, should be recognized and valued. It is about how we deal with diversity, accepting our prejudices and limitations, and leading people to unity. Our mission as SSNDs is to devote our lives to that unity for the sake of which Jesus Christ was sent. (cf. YAS, C 4)

Call to Prayer

God, people and circumstances are so different that we have trouble fitting them into our

thought patterns. You have created us with a wide range of characteristics. Loving God, it’s a good thing not all people are like me. I think that would be pretty boring. Not because I’m boring – maybe also – but rather because diversity, the different ways every person in this world contributes, would be missing. Thank you for this diversity.


It is relatively difficult to write about experiences on this topic since “awareness or respect for diversity” covers many different levels, and every reader has thousands of everyday experiences in dealing with diversity. As a class teacher of pubescent teenagers with 32-37 students, I dealt with the corresponding number of characters. Accepting them all in their diversity was a big challenge for them and me. A look at our communities shows something similar, especially in the larger communities. We have different characters and generations – even if we are all SSNDs and live our Constitution, You Are Sent. And often, it may be a minor miracle that we live well together despite or precisely because of the diversity.

For years, we as a congregation have tried to live interculturally, especially by merging provinces. How can awareness and respect for diversity grow and succeed in these examples and beyond? At this point, I would like to remind you of three words by the former Chancellor of Germany, which were heard in the press around the world: “We can do it!” I want to put these three words in the context from which they were quoted. In a press conference in 2015, Angela Merkel said: “I will say quite simply: Germany is a strong country. The motive with which we approach these things must be: We have achieved so much – we can do it! We can do it, and where something stands in our way, it has to be overcome. It has to be worked on.”  I was personally impressed by this last sentence: “We can do it, and where something stands in our way, it has to be overcome. We have to work on it.” This is what we all need to do again and again in our everyday life. Good cooperation – despite or precisely because of the diversity – requires personal commitment, even if it is often very hard. The result can be very enriching and colorful. We need the courage to embrace diversity so that we are not “depriving the world of its various colours, its beauty and, ultimately, its humanity.” (Fratelli Tutti 100)


Living with respect for diversity, we learn about ourselves and others. We understand and accept that there are differences among people related to age, gender, culture, race, values, abilities, and beliefs, and this challenges us to be able to work well with people who look, act, or think differently. Openness to differences is essential for living together in society and building a just world. This awareness makes it possible to overcome individualism, prejudice, and discrimination in our local and global community.

As we evolve as human beings, broadening our awareness and improving our relationships, the concept of diversity also evolves. We can look back at our personal lives and even at the history of our congregation, for example, and see how we understood and lived diversity until the beginning of this century. We have expanded our understanding and living of it and been challenged to live with respect for our diversity and to continue walking together into the future for the sake of God’s mission entrusted to us. You Are Sent encourages us: Amid the diversity which exists in our church and in our world, our continuous striving for unity in our faith communities is a valuable witness. Realizing that unity can be expressed in and enriched by diversity, we endeavor to be a unifying force among God’s people. In turn, those to whom we are sent aid us in our union with Christ and challenge us to renewed commitment to his mission. (YAS, DG 10)

As we remain on the journey of ongoing growth in living with respect for diversity, it is possible to change, give witness, and transform the world. We find encouragement in the directional statements of the last General Chapters: Love Cannot Wait, and Love Gives Everything as we continue our mission of proclaiming the love of God with our whole being, regardless of the people we meet and irrespective of where we meet them.


The results of the cross-cultural dialogue in preparation for our 25th General Chapter Living into a Prophetic Witness of Universal Communion calls us to DEEPEN, nurture, and enrich our relational lives, in community, in ministry, offering all with whom we interact kindness, respect, and care as well as forgiveness, reconciliation and peace.

  • Learn something new from people that are different from you. Let it widen your horizons and develop you personally.
  • Get to know different people and ask questions. Avoid using stereotypes and recognize and address any unconscious bias you might have.
  • Support any marginalized person or group in their plight to be respected and included.

Closing Prayer

God, people and circumstances are so different that we have trouble fitting them into our thought patterns. You have endowed us with a wide variety of characteristics: origin and skin color, age and gender, ethnicity and cultural tradition, religious, political, and sexual orientation, fears and hopes, dreams, and visions. But all of us have a longing for recognition and security. Deliver us from the blindness that sees only one way for all. Detach us from all shackles of prejudice and indifference. Grant us the spirit of fraternity and solidarity. Take away from all of us the fear that we will lose if we open the borders we have set ourselves. Let us approach each other with respect and freedom and prepare the field of reconciliation so that the fruits of your kingdom can grow in diversity and abundance. Amen! (Prayer for Tolerance)   


Prepared by Sister Maria-Theresia Knippschild, Bavarian Province, for the International Shalom Network

                     Graphic from the Directional Statement, 24th General Chapter. Design: Office for Congregational Communications