This year brought in a lot of opportunity to work with dialogue, personally and professionally. There were opportunities to facilitate interfaith dialogue for educators, interfaith dialogue in the context of climate change, several deep, long-term dialogues around diversity, equity and inclusion with corporate houses and international NGOs, dialogues with peacebuilders in various contexts, etc. Each has left me a little more undone, and a little more formed. Very importantly though, each opportunity has been a pathway to belonging in our world.
One area of conscious effort for me on this path has been to decolonise myself, and the dialogue processes I engage in. Of course, this is intergenerational work, and not something I strive for as an achievement, as much as an essential way to be eco-centric.
Often, the colonised construct of dialogue refers to the idea of a ‘safe space’ with ground rules laid out that are meant to make participants feel comfortable. It is helpful perhaps, for beginners, and maintains an outwardly sense of decorum. However, indigenous perspectives on dialogue demand a lot more presence and responsibility. Dialogue is as safe as life is. Only then is it a process that belongs in life and is not simulated. This also assumes that the community is responsible for taking care of someone when they are impacted and need support during the process.
When approached this way, dialogue is a process of becoming. Naturally, it entails unbecoming what one was before the moment of dialogue. When one submits to dialogue, one steps in, knowing the experience will change them. If the intention is instead to convince another, or to persuade or negotiate, then it is not dialogue. One needs to be willing to be impacted. Hence, it also calls for courage. Dialogue is dissolution of self as it was till that moment, without knowing what it will reconstitute into. It is simultaneously, and inner and an outer process.
One of the opportunities to work with this exploration this year, was as the convenor of the Samvaad National Interfaith Summit (news report by our media partner in this link) in collaboration with Seeds of Peace and the U.S. Department of State. The design and content were a conscious attempt at decolonising interfaith engagement through the lenses of gender, music, language and so on. I celebrate the collective experience that was created in the process. The speakers and artistes were inspiring. And true to life and the collective unconscious, a miscreant attempted Zoom-bombing a panel that featured four powerful women speaking of their interfaith engagement. Dialogue simulates life. Our collective masculine still needs to work on being able to handle the powerful feminine 😊 Though I must add, the feminine finds an unflinching way of moving forward nevertheless!
Every space in life can be a dialogue space, should we hold it up as a value, and not merely as a process or technique. What are spaces you dialogue in, within and without? How has it transformed you?
#RukminiIyer #ExultSolutions #dialogue #peacebuilding #interfaith