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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Christopher Hitchens - KQED Forum

Open Culture's post about KQED forum podcast in which Christopher Hitchens was interviewed, brought me to listen to it as well. I had not met KQED before and though I had heard of Hitchens, I had never read him or listened to him. It won't have to happen again. (KQED forum feed)

I may roughly agree with Hitchens on a couple of major points, but the style and eventual stand puts me off. As far as the interview is concerned, be warned also about a not so ideal voice: his diction could improve. It makes for rather tiring listening.

The program consists of roughly two parts. The first in which Hitchens gives his view on the Bhutto assassination (must be Al-Qaeda) and on the war in Iraq (can't retreat now, that would be worse) and the US caucus system (shame for democracy to put such heavy importance on such a small occurrence). In the next section he gets to answer listeners' question who are put through to the show. These questions move his focus to the atheism subject of his. This is where he finds praise with Open Culture:
For Hitchens, if there existed a God who answered prayers and intervened in human affairs, “we would be living under an unalterable celestial dictatorship that could read our thoughts while we were asleep and convict us of thought crime and pursue us after we after are dead, and in the name of which priesthoods and other oligarchies and hierarchies would be set up to enforce God’s law.” Essentially, we’d be living in a supernatural Orwellian world.

Personally, I am not so impressed by this.

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