Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The road of dialogue
By Editor
Mon 13 May 2013, 14:00 CAT

The Apostolic Nuncio to Zambia Archbishop Julio Murat has appealed for dialogue, saying it is the cornerstone on which all relations are built.

The Nuncio's appeal for dialogue among Zambians and their leaders may seem superfluous because, as many say, Zambians are a peaceful and tolerant people, who continually dialogue with each other.

It is true that there exists the dialogue of life among our people. It is the kind of dialogue by which people strive to live in an open neighbourly spirit, sharing joys and sorrows, human problems and worries, and mutually giving and receiving all types of support.

People strive to avoid all that could disturb the peace, and hasten to resolve differences. We see this kind of dialogue in our families and neighbourhoods, in schools and places of work, in the marketplace. This is the dialogue for survival. Its absence would make life impossible for everyone. Unfortunately, it is often restricted to the members of the "group" and usually excludes or is denied to the "outsider" or to those who are not "one-of-us".

Then there is the dialogue of action, in which our people, irrespective of their political, social, ethnic or other differences, join hands and work together to realise common projects, particularly when the objectives of such projects are well understood and accepted by all. Both types of dialogue, however, tend to create blocks and to foment group rivalries and conflicts; one group united against another.
And because of the existence and practice of these types of dialogue in our society, some of us tend to think any talk of dialogue is an attempt to create divisions or misunderstandings that are not there. But despite all this, complaints about lack of dialogue continue. The fact that these complaints continue is a clear sign that some citizens are not being taken seriously, that they are not being listened to. This is absence of dialogue. And we may pay a terrible price for this absence of dialogue.

"Please, listen to me. Try to understand me." This is the cry of many Zambians today. Prejudices, suspicions, fears, hatred, divisions have closed our ears and hearts to one another. Yet each one of us wants to be heard and understood. Probably, we are all saying the same thing, but since we do not even make the effort to understand what the others are saying, our problems and differences keep growing from day to day. The result is what we now experience: misunderstandings and a general atmosphere of hostility and suspicion.

Dialogue, listening to others and sharing our views and beliefs with others, is not a choice for us. It is a must. This is so because dialogue is an essential path for the promotion of peace and unity among our people. And dialogue is rooted in the nature and dignity of human beings. Dialogue is the path towards national unity. In dialogue, one can compare different points of view and examine disagreements.
In any country, there is always a need for ongoing dialogue for different reasons. New and young generations need it. New situations require it. And new challenges force us to adopt new attitudes. Dialogue is therefore an ongoing process in all areas of human endeavour, and no human being can rightly claim that he or she does not need more dialogue. This is all more true in the new political situation that is emerging in our country. Without a personal and social change of attitudes towards economic policies, politics as a public service, honesty, transparency, accountability and justice for all, the change of political structures, the Constitution will not bring any substantial improvement. If our politics are not matched with a moral campaign towards civil responsibility, a spirit of dialogue and justice, the change of structures will remain inoperative, and the same roots of evil will continue producing the same consequences.
We shouldn't forget that in traditional African societies, there were structures of dialogue and participation in the process of decision-making in order to find peaceful solutions in cases of social conflict. Equally, our right to participation in governance today requires participatory democracy. And this requires not only democratic structures but also the reign of democratic values in the hearts and minds of the people. Democratic structures without corresponding democratic values in the hearts and minds of the people are rootless. We must hold on to some values and norms, some expectations and aspirations. In this regard, our persistent call for a loyal opposition is not intended to undermine anyone, humiliate anyone, subordinate anyone. It is simply out of a belief that this is the environment, the atmosphere, that makes democracy work. This is the so-called "political culture" which we feel is so necessary in Zambia today if multi-party democracy is to succeed.

The fundamental value we must have is the respect for diversity and acceptance of pluralism. Gone are the days when everyone was supposed to think the same way, belong to the same political party, and support the same programme.

True believers in multi-party democracy welcome dialogue and debate over views contrary to their own because they realise that they themselves may not always be right. They recognise that there is a specific role to be a played by each different organisation in a spirit of unity amidst diversity. This value of respect of diversity and dialogue means a realisation that political parties are important but that they are not the only actors in democracy.

A real democracy has to be built on the basis of justice and moral values and has to look to the common good.

We should be more interested in a lively spirit of democracy that will give full meaning to the structures we have created or are creating and ensure their success in fostering the welfare and progress of our country. We can only build a society with the free co-operation of all its members.

The road to social peace must necessarily pass through dialogue, sincere dialogue that seeks truth and goodness. That dialogue must be a meaningful and generous offer of a meeting of good intentions and not a possible justification for continuing to foment dissention, mistrust, suspicion.

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