Dr. Pamela Chrabieh Badine
For the last decade, I attended more than a hundred interreligious encounters – institutional, spiritual, theological, social -in several cities: Montreal, Beirut, Cairo, Thessaloniki, Budapest, Istanbul, etc. Most of these encounters occurred between Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, religious and secular, scholars, politicians and social activists, gathered to share their respective visions on several crucial topics all related to the building of peace in the Arab world. Despite their relevance, these encounters could be identified as ‘marginalized’. Marginalization does not mean in this case the potential to result in severe material deprivation, but a certain form of exclusion from national, regional and international decision-making processes. Building peace through dialogue, especially interreligious dialogue, seems to be more and more a diluted-annihilated discourse and practice, or it is used for sectarian and geopolitical agendas.
Some will argue that my concern is postmodernist, being inclined to militate for marginalized voices. Others will say that it has something that is very biblical. Strikingly, when we read the Bible, the voice that often gets marginalized is the voice of God - instead of listening to this voice of grace, mercy, hope, and peace, the people go after their own particular interests. But my main concern is to find an alternative path to the ‘eternal victim’ – i.e. ‘We are being rejected and our voices do not count’ - and the ‘megalomaniac’ - i.e. ‘We know the Truth and others should listen to it so they can be saved’ - attitudes, which seem to undermine the building of a sustaibable culture of peace in the Arab World. Both of these attitudes lead many organizations, groups and individuals to constitute closed circles and ivory towers where criticism of all ‘isms’ loses ground, being replaced by a profusion of graven ideologies.
The result? The reinforcement of marginalization at all levels.
The solution? Starting to be critical of one’s own ‘isms’, without playing the role of ‘outraged prophets of peace’.
There is indeed a problem with humanity’s ability to listen to the marginalized voice, but the latter should understand this as a result of its own limits, especially when it lacks humility, self-criticism, openness and solidarity to-with others.