"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

Let's between us make the world a better place.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Unity in Diversity

Why do we seem to think so often that things have to be right or wrong, black or white, this or that? Why do we not rejoice and celebrate in our differences, accept others' ideas for what they are, part of the rich tapestry of human life, and respect them.

The Zulus have a term for this, from their own meetings of elders, when brought together to discuss important matters. They call this method of dialogue Indaba. It was pioneered in South Africa post apartheid - as a method to draw people of different opinions together in a safe environment where all are listened to, and the outcome aimed for is consensual, or win-win.

Of course we will always have differences of opinion, but schism over them should not be seen as inevitable. The Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Revd Thabo Makgoba, called for the bishops at the 2008 Lambeth Conference to use this method of Indaba to discuss the controversial issues of gender and sexuality. He is now calling again for Christians to use Indaba to help the Anglican Communion of Christians find a way through the labyrinth of disagreements we seemingly bicker over, in the eyes of the public. He was speaking at the 2010 USPG: Anglicans in World Mission annual conference. The Anglican Communion holds together in South Africa, he said, despite huge disparities in culture, race, language, and with high church, low church, Anglo-Catholics, Afro-Catholics, evangelicals...

Those of you following these blogs will recall that in the last month or so I have already written about the Jain principle of Anekant, many sided wisdom, and the Scientific and Medical Network who also foster a safe place to explore different ideas, critically yes, but within an atmosphere of overriding respect.

Perhaps the more vocal atheists in our midst could usefully learn from this idea, whether within the spirit of Indaba or Anekant or the SMN, rather than continually try to trash the views and beliefs of the great faiths. The world could be a much better place to be if we all respected each other in these ways.

In his wonderfully inspiring book Many-Sided Wisdom, Aidan Rankin reminds us that Anekant is relevant to all faiths or secular ideologies. The practice begins, he tells us, with acceptance of the need for humility, which is prized by all spiritual traditions. "Fundamentalism," he writes, "is based on lack of humility, which leads in turn to repression and violence of all forms."

May we all learn to respect all humanity and the creation of which we are a part, and celebrate our diversities, for a better world for all.

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