There was an intriguing piece on the Bahá’í World News Service site yesterday. It addresses a critical issue for our times: how do we find a way of discussing complex and contentious issues without descending into partisan in-fighting? Below is a short extract: for the full post see link.
LONDON — Can we change the character of our national conversation and the terms on which we talk to one another?
Recently, the UK Baha’i public affairs office invited a group of parliamentarians, journalists, academicians, and civil society actors to explore this question. The dialogue which ensued benefited from the rich and diverse experiences of the participants. Numbering fifty, attendees included representatives from the Religion Media Centre, the British Humanist Society, SOAS University of London, the Rand Corporation, and the 3 Faiths Forum, among others.
In a statement addressed to the participants, the Baha’i public affairs office wrote: “Many challenging conversations are being held at all levels of society, which are of great significance to our shared future. These conversations include the nature of our shared national values, social cohesion, the equality of women and men, the role religion plays in public life, migration, freedom of speech, freedom of religion or belief, and the economy. . . . .
Prof. Michael Karlberg of Western Washington University, discussed the need for modes of dialogue that are based on cooperation and interdependence. “As 2016 draws to a close,” he stated, “We need to ask ourselves, soberly: How are civil disagreement and combative debate working out for us? Are they leading to the world we want to leave behind for our children? Are they enabling us to solve the mounting social and environmental problems we are facing in the twenty-first century? Are they promoting meaningful forms of social cohesion?
“What we need is a more mature model of public discourse that reflects the understanding that we are all members of an interdependent social body and that we have the potential for altruism, just as we do for egoism,” he continued. “To realize our altruistic potential, however, requires education, effort, and free will.”