Saturday, October 28, 2006

Interreligious Dialogue

1. Religions, cultures, ethnic groups
2. The good news about September 11
3. Long-term view about the Other in me
4. Creating resonance at a political level
5. "Similarities unite; differences enrich"
6. Violence is anything that alters harmony
7. We are all extremists and always 100% wrong

I have just finished moderating a panel in interfaith dialogue, and I wanted to write some thoughts that I collected from it.

1. Interfaith DOES NOT refer only to dialogue between the three Abrahamic religions (namely, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, in order of appearance...) I wonder about dialogue between other religions of the world, big or small, like Hinduism, Sikhism, Baha'iism, Shintoism, Taoism, Buddhism, and all other indigenous social methods to access the Divine through faith.

Also, the communication between people from different religions can be extracted from and adapted to the communication between different groups of people around the world that are excluive, meaning that they exclude others from their congregations. Think about different citizenships, nationalities, ethnic groups, political parties, sports fans. All those groups are based on the belief that the acceptance to the group also implies belonging. There is no other way to be a member.

2. September 11 brought us out of the cocoon we used to live in, said Mushtaq Luqmani, a Pakistani-American at the panel. It made me think that if September 11 had had at least one good, positive, constructive contribution to the world we live in, is that it brought us closer together. Perhaps conflict is not the way we want to come closer to others. Nevertheless, the opportunity posed to human civilization with this event is remarkable: it has forced us all to think why someone would have such ideas and such energy to execute them. The simple question is a challenge regardless of the answer. Conflicts are a bond between the parties at conflict.

3. In 25 years from now, how will the world look like? Will I become closer to the Other, or will the Other become closer to me? If my world is one, and I am here with all Others, it means that in 25 years I will have to share the same world with Them, as much as I do now. The difference is that today I am aware of so much, and most likely in 25 years I will be aware of so much more about the Other that it will be extremely difficult to draw the line where I start and Others end. Engagement of the Other is an attitude more than a methodology, and it is more a lifetime endeavor rather than the theme for a three-day conference.

4. Why do politicians fail to understand the way to peace? Why so much ignorance in those who are leading the way for all of us passengers of this 6-billion-person boat? Could it be that diplomats and politicians already had their time? I am not asking for an opportunity to lead. Never. It's already difficult enough to govern my own life sustainably to take onto the responsibility to govern other people's lives as well. I propose we let women govern civilization for some 25 years. I'm curious to see what would happen then.

5. There are many things that you and I have in common, and many others that are different from each other. Those things we have in common bring us together, like the language we speak, the basic human needs that we seek to satisfy on a daily basis (not only physiological ones, but also emotional ones, like the need for affection, the need for attention, and the need to feel productive), the hope for a better tomorrow. The things we have different, the work we do, the place we live in, the dreams we have about the future, are differences we share, and these differences enrich us mutually. So, similarities unite us, and differences enrich us. I propose we start teaching this at kindergarden level. I propose politicians and leaders all around the world understand this and implement it. It's a very small twist in our attitude, and it produces a quite profound transformation towards a more peaceful coexistence.

6. The most profound and holistic definition of violence I have heard is "anything that alters harmony." In that sense, there are so many expressions of violence around us that it is almost overwhelming to think about it. Good news: this also means we are empowered 100% to take absolute initiative to make this change from the inside. What is our harmony? What is our greatest state of wellbeing? Anything that alters that high quality of your life can be taken away. In fact, only you can do it. Peace is more at hand than you thought it was. For example: when the U.S. decided to invade Iraq, I decided I didn't want to be corrupted at a spiritual level with all the mass media information that is produced in a war scenario. I decided not to watch TV or read the news or engage in conversations about the topic, unless strictly necessary (at the time I was still studying Peace and Conflict Transformation). So, for the last three years I haven't gotten emotionally involved in the conflict, which means, among other benefits, that I haven't developed an irrational hatred towards the U.S. (even though I completely disagree with their blatant violation of International Law). Unless we manage to eradicate this irrational hatred against the U.S., we won't manage to help the boat float stable. It is constantly tilting radically one way or the other, and we don't know how long it will last before it breaks or capsizes.

7. Maureen O'Hara, on her keynote speech at the Conference last night introduced a fact that left me dumbfounded: she says that at any given time, every single human being has access to only one trillionth of the whole information that is available in the world. One trillionth! This means that if we convert this number to a percentage and we round it to the nearest millionth of a percent, each one of us is 100% wrong all the time! Or you think you are the lucky one that bumped into the "right" trillionth of information to "win" an argument? Gotcha!!!

Additionally, this fact allows me to say that we are ALL extremists: if we base our thoughts and our beliefs on one trillionth of the available information, it means that we are basing our perceptions and ideas and beliefs on the hint of the tip of the iceberg, if at all. We could be wrong. All the time. So we should try to avoid judgment about others. This will bring us one step closer to global harmony (and I don't think we are too far away).

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