Dialogue: from heart to head
In the world today, “Dialogue” is among the words commonly used in private and public discourse. The word “Dialogue” is no longer a monopoly of any special discipline and never restricted to any intellectual symposium. Dialogue that is restricted to experts can only end in the auditorium because the practical actors of violence are located at the bottom level from where they are recruited. This is why dialogue whether it concerns religion, politics, ethnic or social should begin from the heart. The essence of all forms of dialogue is to create an enabling environment to manage differences in order to live in peace and unity with a deep experience of joy. For dialogue to yield positive results, the dialogue partners must be those who are interested and not those who are only professionals and experts. Interested dialoguers must also be ready to reach the heart of the other with the meekness of their own heart.
The heart is the abode of God. A pure heart communicates the message of God who is full of mercy, compassion, justice, peace and love. In the Gospel of Matthew, purity of heart gives divine vision. “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). The pure in heart has the capacity for peace building; conflict management; conflict resolution and conflict transformation. Peace makers endeavour to create heaven on earth hence they belong to the household of God. “Blessed are the peace makers, for they shall be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). To dialogue with the heart, the interested partner must endeavour to liberate the mind by growing beyond prejudice and preconception. As long as a person ruminates on the past injuries, the capacity to dialogue is distorted. Inability to forgive keeps a person in the past while those who forgive live in the present and move on to the providence of the future, which is God’s secret.
Dialogue can begin from the heart before the application of the head even in a relationship between the High class and the low class. Take the case of the relationship between a doctor and a patient. It is a known fact that for healing of mind and body, a patient must first trust and believes in the doctor just as a student must trust the teacher to pass examinations. A sick person may not bother about the religion and tribe of the doctor who opens up his heart in dialogue. The doctor listens to the medical history of the patient to know what he is allergic to. This helps in the process of diagnosis and prescription of drugs.
Some people are reacting to some of the issues in the interview of President Muhammadu Buhari with Martine Dennis of Al Jazeera during his visit to Qatar. On the question of what could be the reaction to the fifty percent Nigerian Christians to the membership of Nigeria in the “Saudi Arabia Military Coalition of Muslim/Arab Nations”, the President responded that only the religious bigots would take offence at the decision. The expression “Religious Bigot” appears to mean different things to different people outside the dictionary synonyms of “bigot” which are extremist, diehard, dogmatist, hypocrite and chauvinist. We may not deny that every religion has some form of extremism. The idea of forming an Islamic coalition against terrorism in itself is a bold step to free Nigeria from the label of terrorism. The Muslims have said in clear terms that Boko Haram and any form of terrorism are not Islamic hence the need for their coalition to present the real Islam that is a religion of peace. In the spirit of Inter-religions dialogue, the Christians in Nigerian could co-operate in any lawful religious means employed by the Chief Security Officer of the nation to expunge terror and implant peaceful co-existence in every part of Nigeria. This calls for dialogue with all the stakeholders of this national peace project in a way and manner that could reveal the extent of belonging to all, as professed by the President in his acceptance speech.
To the question on why his government had not invited the Biafra agitators for talks, President Buhari retorted, “Why should we invite them?” The President drew attention to the millions of people that died during the civil war. One could easily deduce that the President was talking from his personal experience of the war that took place when some of the agitators were not born; but who knows if dialogue from the heart of the President could make the agitators have a rethink; or convince Nigerians that the ideological concept of “Biafra” is a call to a radical change of attitude to grow a new Nigeria. The President could melt an icy heart if he could personally do a dialogue at the grass root level from his heart. Otherwise, doing it by proxy or delegation can still bear wonderful fruits of lasting peace. Nigeria needs total reconstruction at the physical, emotional, psychological, social, political, religious, ethnic and cultural levels. The expectation of Nigerians is a change at every aspect of human existence in the nation that calls for practical structures of dialogue. This would debunk the popular argument that no politician has the interest of the people at heart. The President can make a difference if he manages justice with mercy and love akin to a father.
A sincere dialogue of the heart could reveal that the Biafra agitation for instance, is not a struggle for a sectional territory but an ideology that is shared by many parts of the nation for emancipation of the oppressed and neglected regions. A dialogue of the heart could reveal that no particular region is exempt from what the agitators are complaining about. A dialogue of the heart could reveal that it is easier to dialogue than to kill people with military prowess. The head represents the brain and intellectual acumen. This would make great strides if it is guided with the heart. To listen with the heart is another way of expressing “heart-to-heart talk”. This is expressed in French as “tête-à-tête” (head to head).
Fr. Cornelius Omonokhua (firstname.lastname@example.org)