Astew in Fiji, Israel, Kosovo

Call it what you will - melting pot, salad, Mulligan stew - but mixing "different" peoples in one society can be as difficult as cooking up any fusion cuisine: The right blend takes an understanding of the essential qualities of each ingredient.

In Fiji, Israel, and Kosovo, ethnic or religious antagonism has prevented people from understanding the essentials about others.

*Racial tensions in Fiji have resulted in a coup that's scuttled its multiracial constitution. Now indigenous Fijians hold absolute rule over the 44 percent of the population descended from South Asians.

Such racist rule deserves international sanction of Fiji's new government. Coup leader George Speight only plays to native Fijians who fear economic dominance by the minority ethnic Indians.

The ousted prime minister, Mahendra Chaudry, remains optimistic. "Fiji is a great country and if we have a future, we have to work together," says Fiji's first elected ethnic Indian leader. Right on.

*Israel remains uncertain if it can live with Palestinians in its midst. The talks at Camp David were focused on whether to divide rule over Jerusalem and whether to let about 3 million Palestinian refugees return. In both cases, a higher birth rate among Palestinians poses a demographic time bomb for a state that defends itself as Jewish.

Even though Israel declares Jerusalem to be its "eternal, undivided capital" (something many early Zionists didn't), the Palestinians' population growth in the city means they may someday outnumber Jews.

Israel annexed Palestinian-dominated East Jerusalem after the 1967 war and must now decide whether to keep it in the name of religion or relinquish control in favor of Jewish purity.

*After the slaughter of so many ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, many survivors are seeking revenge on neighboring Serbs. The hate runs so deep that the United Nations and NATO can barely run the place a year after Kosovo was liberated from Serbian control.

Still, says the UN administrator, Bernard Kouchner: "To make peace takes generations, a deep movement and a change of the spirit. It's why I sometimes want to believe in God."

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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