by Larry Visser
Harmony. Dignity. Compassion. Civility. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Words to live by. Words to heal by. How good it is to hear voices near and far proclaim such words in a world in which they seem so under siege and out of style.
I have long been a person who reacts, as many do, with a sense of moral outrage to divisiveness, prejudice, selfishness, and extremism. Nevertheless, I have mostly sat by passively, hoping for better things to come. But in recent times "better things" seem to be growing more and more scarce. The tides of change seem to be accelerating in the wrong direction.
Polarized When Anonymous
Some time ago I reached a point where a voice within my heart could no longer be silenced. If I was not in some way part of a solution, I was part of the problem. I began reading. I started with Desmond Tutu’s The Book of Forgiving. That led me to Donna Hicks’ Dignity: Its Essential Role in Resolving Conflict. I continued reading similar works and discovering web sites like this one that offered solutions and told stories of changed lives.
Early in my research I settled on a model that made sense to me and that seemed within my reach to implement. It assumes that dissimilar or opposing groups are most likely to become polarized when they are most anonymous to each other. I can only violate someone’s dignity if I first make him less than human in my mind. The seeds of acrimony grow where people are lumped into stereotypes, where they are misunderstood, where they are demonized.
To the extent this is true, an effective antidote may be found in breaking through the anonymity. I began to make plans to bring people from opposite sides of divides together in face-to-face, small group meetings where each person has a name and a face and a story about how they came to be the way they are. In an effort to brand the concept, I began to call it Dignity Dialogues. Mind you, I branded it only as a way to refer to the model, not with any thought of making it a business.
Engaging in Dignity Dialogues
In Harmony Interfaith Initiative terms, Dignity Dialogues overcomes ideological divides by bringing the human persona front and center in relationships. In a series of workshops, Dignity Dialogue participants receive instruction in conceptual frameworks around human dignity, communication, conflict resolution, and forgiveness. Those concepts are applied in experiential activities focused on learning to see the “other” as a person with a name and a face and a story that explains why he or she believes and acts the way they do.
You can learn more about the model at our website. In all honesty, we are still in our infancy. We welcome comments and ideas that may help us grow and are happy to share workshop materials as they become available.
Obviously, Dignity Dialogues is a bottom-up approach to the problem. In order for it to have significant impact, those who are changed by it must pass it on to others.
I have been encouraged in my research to find how many other sources of light there are around the globe. Groups from all continents, cultures, and faiths have been inspired to pursue harmony, dignity, compassion, and civility. There is something innate in the human spirit that longs for these things and rails against the things that violate them. As long as we add fuel to the fire of that spirit, there is a place in this world for each of us and hope for all of us.
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in all our guest blogs are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Harmony Interfaith Initiative.
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Our Mission and Primary Goal
Our mission is to train and support people who want to do good in the world. We do this by providing access to strategies, methods, and ideas that promote social harmony and enable bridge-building across divides. Our primary goal is to help others create harmony in diverse communities.
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Registered in Hays County, Texas
Founded in 2018
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