The other day I called my brother to check in and catch up. When I asked, “How are you?” he replied, “Do you mean when I’m in uniform or when I’m out of uniform?” My brother is a lieutenant police officer. Lately, if he’s in uniform, he may be called names, glared at, flipped off, or worse. Many law enforcement officers are finding themselves on the receiving end of the anger swelling in society today around the very real problems of systemic racism in our country. It reminds me a bit of the clergy abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, where many saw a Roman collar and wondered if the man wearing it was one of the hidden pedophiles. Similarly, some today see a police badge and assume the person wearing it is a bigot. Though I feel sad about that, I realize this is what outrage, full of pain, can look like.
My prayer is that, in time, all of the justified anger moves into a space of genuine dialogue… and from genuine dialogue into real transformation.
Theologian Hans Küng wrote “…dialogue has a totally different foundation and motivation when it arises out of the recognition of the sufferings of millions of underprivileged, marginalized people who have been denied even minimum human rights and dignity.”
Our nation seems to be waking up in new ways, recognizing the work that is before us. Many are starting this process of dialogue, motivated by a desire to change — not only the criminal justice system, but society over all. And each of us plays a part. If you don’t know where to begin, below are a few guidelines I’ve collected in my work with interreligious dialogue that can be generally applied. It’s amazing to see what dialogue can do!
Dialogue Toward Justice & Peace:
1) Start by knowing yourself, your background, and what has formed you.
2) Share these personal discoveries with one another to help educate each other.
3) Be sensitive to one another when sharing personal histories.
4) Enter into one another’s experience with curiosity and active engagement — actually spend time together in each other’s reality (e.g. home, neighborhood, job location, social life, place of worship, etc.)
5) Look at the context of how both peoples’ backgrounds are interconnected and have influenced one another.
6) Be open to change your perspective while allowing someone to respectfully disagree.
7) Find the common ground with which to make some justice and peace goals you both can support.
8) Work together to achieve these objectives, one at a time.
9) Stay in relationship with one another while welcoming others into the conversation.
10) Continue to bring needs and ideas to the table, advancing the mission of justice and peace.
Can you reach out to someone from a race other than your own and being an intentional dialogue to help our country heal and grow?
May you be inspired!