In search of an Abrahamic dialogue (part 2 of 3)

Dialogue… yes! A hopeful exchange of ideas and opinions, not just conversations that either start as, or deteriorate into, monologues… such as those Spaniards jokingly claim predominate in their get-togethers. A dialogue for attentive listeners, not a “dialogue for the deaf.”

But to have meaningful dialogue, one likely to produce a better exchange of ideas- and thus understanding, there is a crucial prerequisite: complete and total participation. All voices that can add to, or benefit from, such exchange must be free to participate at that symbolic dialogue table; including those voices that bring great rancor and fundamental dissent, for their presence could help with the difficult task of building trust, of creating added opportunity for conflict resolution and lasting compromise.

As for the problems in the Middle East , particularly those clustered around the Holy Land of Palestine, dialogue in its natural raw state has been conspicuously absent, always being refined to meet the interests, and demands, of those wielding the greater power… often excluding angry, militant voices such as those of Hamas and Hezbollah. The reason given for excluding those voices is always the same: behavior judged a priori to be illegitimate.

But by locking the door to these voices in the dialogue that precedes, is part of, or follows negotiations, we are simultaneously locking the door to any peace building required to establish (or re-establish) trust and normalcy.

The muted voices of those engaged in “illegitimate behavior” in the Middle East seem to be cast in two categories, or names, both with an apparent Muslim exclusivity. The first, “terrorists,” largely applied to Sunni groups; the second, “fundamentalists,” finding favor when alluding to behavior at the state level, such as that of the Shiite in Iran . In any event, terrorists and fundamentalists seem to be names that, while applicable to countless individuals, groups and nations throughout time and geography, are now given special luster as the reincarnation and sole domain of the Muslim World.

There is no denial of the hateful and inhumane face of terrorism, or the intolerant aspects of religious fundamentalism. Nor can there be denial that there are groups that openly, or sub rosa, sponsor such behavior. What must be denied for the sake of truth and peace, however, is that such actions, such behavior, is the exclusivity of any one people… of any one religion. And the best way to deny that exclusivity is by recognizing how throughout history all children of Abraham, not just Muslims, have engaged in both of these practices. Thus, denying the exclusivity of some by showing the inclusiveness of all, Jews and Christians as well.

A walk through history lane shows us how Christians became persecutors themselves shortly after being persecuted. Invoking the name of God, with misguided religiosity that replaced both heart and reason, they terrorized their Abrahamic brethren, Muslims and Jews, brandishing a cross in one hand and a sword in the other. Crusaders claiming to be men-of-god converted the City of Jerusalem and its environs into a land of terror, and its Temple and porch of Solomon into a sea of Saracen and Jewish blood, knee-deep by historical accounts. Then, the Holy Inquisition after the Crusaders… also in the name of (fundamentalist) religion, all in the name of God. And the historical chronicles go on… and on!

But it was not just in their religious zeal that many of Abraham’s children demonstrated their proclivity to create and propagate terror, whether among themselves, their Abrahamic brethren, or other people sharing this earth with them… not several centuries ago but within recent generations. “Civilized” Christians have proven to be accomplished disciples of Huns and Tartars… killing millions of Jews, leveling cities, and exacting wars where noncombatant casualties exceed many-fold those of combatants’- as it’s the case in Iraq . Not to forget for a moment the fear, the terror inflicted with the first and only use of atomic weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki . All terrorism in grand scale, often sponsored and performed not just by some demented individual, or maverick group, but by governments with special interests, imperial designs, or simple revenge in their agendas… masking their true intentions with the excuse of acting in some form of self-defense or selfless liberation.

We must concede that terrorism is an equal opportunity interloper to mankind, including all Abrahamic creeds and tribes. As a corollary to terrorism not being unique to any possible dialoguers… perhaps we can insist that all voices be heard now, even those deemed representing “illegitimate behavior.”

Dialogue is unquestionably the way to bring lasting peace to the Middle East … but does it have to be Abrahamic dialogue?