Wednesday, July 20, 2011

When Great Minds Convene

A few days ago I read an article that happened to show up on the side of the Huffington Post's main page. The article brings together the work of several great minds:
  • The Dalai Lama - not only a spiritual leader but the leader of the growing international inter-faith dialogue movement
  • Eboo Patel - Rhodes scholar, founder of the Interfaith Youth Core, speaker at the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Forum
  • reference to highly acclaimed book, American Grace, which includes research contributions from Augustana Professor Dr. Pehl
  • and of course, Arianna Huffington, because she's just great.
Patel is the author is this editorial entitled "His Holiness and the Art and Science of Interfaith Cooperation." I encourage you to read the entire article - here is the paragraph that struck me most:

Over the past decade or so, enough research has been done on religious diversity and interfaith cooperation to constitute the beginnings of a science of the field. Here's what we know from Robert Putnam and David Cambell's "American Grace": positive personal contact with people from different faiths significantly improves people's attitudes towards those religions and communities. Here's what we know from work done by Stephen Prothero and Pew and Gallup surveys: appreciative knowledge of other religions improves people's attitudes towards those communities and traditions. In other words there is a strong relationship between attitudes, behaviors, and knowledge -- a magic triangle, so to speak. And that is precisely how the Dalai Lama has shaped his book and his recent teachings. Get to know people from other religions personally, preferably by doing service work together. And get to know some things you admire about their traditions, especially those areas that have commonality with your own. A good place to start is on the shared value of compassion. In his simple and straightforward way, the Dalai Lama is telling stories that work the triangle.

Much of what Patel writes and the Dalai Lama teaches fits perfectly in the context of what we have been learning at the Nansen Academy in Lillehammer and in Oslo at the International Summer School. Education and contact at a human level are the best ways to break through barriers and build bridges; even where barriers do not exist, there is much to be learned.

After reading bits and pieces of the Dalai Lama's writing and listening to him speak in January I can say he that he has a "less is more" way of communicating. To that tune, the Dalai Lama is very effective at spreading his message in 140 characters or less via Twitter. I started following the Dalia Lama on Twitter over a year ago and I always appreciate his reminders to treat others with compassion and live so that others might live well. It's people like him who make Twitter a worthwhile network.

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