By TARA LUTMAN AĞAÇAYAK
If marriage is the smallest unit of a community, then cross-cultural couples are ambassadors, peace-makers, and change-agents.
When I married my Turkish husband five months after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, we were forming a strategic alliance. A Turkish-Muslim and an American-Catholic joining our lives. Our union represents an opportunity to build bridges between nations and foster understanding among cultures.
I was reminded of Turkey’s history of such strategic alliances when I met the Istanbul painter Reyyan Somuncuoğlu. Some of her harem paintings, like this one of Safiye, are inspired by four foreign-born women who married Ottoman sultans and gave birth to sons who also became sultans.
My husband and I faced criticism before September 11th about our mixed-marriage, but afterward the skeptics and naysayers increased. Their voices were juxtaposed against those telling us we were models for the world and would do wonderful things with our marriage.
I feel a deep sense of responsibility to represent my country to those I encounter abroad. Likewise I take opportunities to provide insight into a Muslim culture based on my first-hand experiences living in Turkey. At a time in America when Muslims are discriminated against nearly as much as homosexuals, I view this as an important role in promoting tolerance and understanding.
Mixed-marriages offer the possibility of bringing peace to the world by first establishing it on a small scale between two people and sending ripples out into the community at large.
Expats living abroad, especially those married to spouses from another culture, are the epitome of global citizenship and provide hope for finding ways to live together in harmony.
How do you take on the role of global citizen in your relationships?
Tara Lutman Ağaçayak is a writer, blogger, problem-solver, creative strategist, and social entrepreneur living in Turkey.