Through a spiritual approach in embracing and immersing ourselves in complex reality with love and compassion, we could liberate Malaysia from its current divisive situation, says Ronald Benjamin.
One of the most important cognitive and social attributes of leadership of any organisations is the ability to come up with solutions that are derived from immersion in reality.
One would not find solutions by speaking outside reality. For example, there are three types of cognitive thinking when a crisis arises.
The first type of person would like to make a distinction between him and reality by being aloof when a problem crops up. This person cries out for peace and stability from distance without wanting to know or understand the root cause of the crisis. He would support extreme authoritarian measures to safeguard elitist and individualistic interests.
The second cognitive process involves a person who would make an effort to understand reality, but she is tied by an ideological frame work which she believes would solve every problem. While there is a certain degree of good vision and value in this type of thinking, its shortcomings have to do with a reality deficit because it relies on rigid ideological formulations to solve problems. This can be seen in the ethno-centric religious parties and far left socialist-oriented organisations. Such ideologues whether from the right or left have limited understanding of complex realities.
The third type of cognitive process is embedded in deep spiritual truths, in which a person desires to immerse himself in complex realities while infused with the values of love compassion and reason. The ability to see the goodness in others even though there are differences of opinion marks this type of thinking. This person’s concept of justice goes beyond ethno-religious and secular-centric formulations; it tackles issues that create unjust systems and structures that violate human dignity and deny equality, creativity and progress. Universal traditional truths and maxims which unite rather than divide take precedence.
The basis for a dialogue is based on an understanding that human beings have diverse aspirations and expressions and there is a need to address and reconcile the concerns of all groups through a balanced approach, through the lens of seeing goodness in the others by embracing reality.
In the current context of the deepening rift between Muslims and Christians in Malaysia, it is important for political leaders and religious leaders to embrace the third type of cognitive process that is embedded in deep spiritual truths that embraces complex reality while acknowledging the goodness in others.
The Allah issue could be resolved if there an effort to understand and acknowledge the reality that Christianity is not a European-centric religion and Christians in Malaysia have been using the term Allah in their scriptures for centuries. For their part, Christians should acknowledge the reality that the identity of the majority of Malays in Malaysia is defined by Islam, which encompasses every aspect of their life and is reflected in the history of the nation. Fear of coveted attempts to convert others to one’s religion should be addressed based on evidence and reason and not based on mere suspicion.
The basis for a dialogue among relevant participants should be an understanding that even though religion is part of a socio-political system, it is vital to stress on substance rather than form. This would help focus on real issues of structural and systemic injustice that affect the common good.
Dialogue should be pursued with humility and intensity of purpose, grounded in reality without preconceived assumptions. Through a spiritual approach in embracing and immersing ourselves in complex reality with love and compassion, we could liberate Malaysia from the current divisive situation where religious extremists seem to dictate the course of the nation.