At Kivu, we talk a lot about learning to love the 'other'. It comes from the core teachings of Jesus who spoke of the two greatest commandments of the faith: to love God and love neighbor.
Sadly, for many this is much more SAID than actually ever DONE.
In reality, using the word 'other' is problematic in and of itself. It means we do not know someone. It means we have some sort of distancing between us. It may also mean that we think the 'others' difference is wrong. It can mean we find their 'otherness' to be distasteful or disgusting. In its most horrific form, it is a label we use to dehumanize, oppress, and dominate 'others'. The truth is that when you meet your 'other', they typically carry stories of having felt and experienced this 'othering' from you (either directly or indirectly) in its most horrific form. But Jesus did not practice 'othering'. He was not ethnocentric like us. He did not distance himself from those who were different from him. He practiced 'neighboring'. He modeled 'befriending'. He was 'loving'.
To ask the question "Who is my 'other'?" may be the equivalent of what a religious expert asked Jesus after hearing him share what he believed to be the two greatest commandments: to love God and love neighbor. The expert asked "Who is my neighbor?". In the context of the classic and ever popularized Good Samaritan story, Jesus answered the question by effectively saying, "HUMAN BEINGS (especially the ones you hate) are your neighbor. They are your 'other'."
Learning to love human beings is a pro-active step away from 'othering'. It is an act of humanization. It restores human interaction to a life giving place of mutual exchange. It is 'anti-othering'. But to ACTUALLY do this, one must begin a process of neighboring and befriending. In short, one must spend time together, get to know each other, share meals together, and do life with one another.
So what are our Kivu Gap Year students doing in the Middle East right now? It's actually quite simple. We are putting into practice the two greatest commandments. We are loving God and loving neighbor. It's not much more complicated than that. We are DOING what Jesus SAID to do.
It is a clear action of 'anti-othering'.