Monday, 02 June 2008 00:00
At the Institute for Global Engagement (IGE), we believe that the essence of religious freedom is respect for the other — not mere tolerance, and not mere indifference.
The result is a dignity-based engagement of other countries and cultures that yields — through partners at the governmental and grassroots levels — practical and long-lasting impact. We call this kind of engagement "relational diplomacy."
Before any engagement takes place, however, relational diplomacy first reminds us that there are no mirror-images and no monoliths. Mirror-image engagement means that we expect the people of other cultures to think and act like us. Monolithic engagement means that we expect the entire people group or government to think and act the same.
These basic reminders need to take place daily as it's just too easy to expect "them" to think like us and/or think alike. In fact, "they" often have different views of the world.
There is only one way to understand the various worldviews that the people of another country might have: listen to and learn from them.
In the process of listening and learning, respect is demonstrated. Meanwhile, "they" will listen, learn, and respect back. A relationship is begun.
Relationships, however, are not easy. They take time. They are messy. They require patient and persistent presence. In the process, however, a space is created where differences are named even as common values are found and strengthened. Now you are ready to have a principled and practical effect based on mutual respect.
As your cross-cultural relationships deepen, you begin to understand the different patterns of local life and, as a result, additional partners and plans for assisting that community. Mind you, the plans you develop with your partners probably won't precisely match your original strategy. This is OK.
So engage the world! Build relationships with no pre-conditions and have the humble confidence to come alongside the people(s) of a different community, culture, and country. The results will astound you.