Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Faith based diplomacy - SOF

From a Western perspective, keeping religion and state separated seems like the healthiest paradigm. Not only do we have bloody memories, of religion inspiring wars among ourselves. The contentious nature of religion, especially with regard to our relationship with Islam of late, seems to indicate how right the separation is. Consequently, diplomatic speech must be ripped of religious content, so it seems.

Speaking of Faith reran a program with Douglas Johnston of the ICRD (International Center for Religion and Diplomacy) who turns this centerpiece of what he calls 'realpolitik' on its head and reveals a very successful diplomatic practice with religion involved. His work has brought him to Pakistan, Sudan and Iran and he relates some remarkable and inspiring stories of achievement. In Pakistan he is involved in reforming the religious schools. In the Sudan he was part of interfaith reconciliation talks and in Iran in a similar program tying all the faith representatives in communicating with each other. He explains the rationale in pretty straightforward and practical terms.

He finds that outside the western world, since religion represents the highest standard of people, adopting a religious tone and incorporating religion into diplomacy is an act of ultimate reverence. It is much less perceived as double talk and rife with hidden agendas than businesslike speech that is cleansed of the holy. In addition, he makes an effort to understand his opponent's religion and make references to his tradition and thus pays ultimate respect and manages to reach out very effectively.

More Speaking of Faith:
Rachel Naomi Remen,
New Evangelicals,
V. V. Raman,
Reinold Niebuhr.

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