To be able to find common grounds, it is essential to recognize and go beyond the cultural nuances. All people view the events of life through their own cultural ﬁlters. These ﬁlters are the result of the values, attitudes, and beliefs that dominate the culture in which they live (VanOtten 2005). These cultural filters can prevent people to be tolerant towards the cultural practices of others. Sometimes our culture, our beliefs make us suspicious towards the people who do not have similar culture and beliefs. Instead of trying to appreciate where they are coming from, we form a prejudice based on our own fears, experiences and cultural filters. Instead of taking time to clarify our point of view in a way that others understand, many times we loose our patience and aggress. History witnesses that, at times, years after the war, the two combating groups became friends and realized that the other warring party was not so evil after all. Sometimes, it is too late though.
For example, one of the worst warfare in the history of the world was between Japan and the United States. After the Japanese attacked on the naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1941 and the US horrendous revenge in 1945 of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the firebombing of Tokyo, the two countries shared emotions of hatred and animosity. But eventually the two countries became strong partners. As long-standing military allies and increasingly interdependent economic partners, Japan and the United States cooperate closely to build a strong, multifaceted relationship based on democratic values and interests in world stability and development. The relationship between the two nations is reinforced by economic, scientific, technical and tourist exchanges. The traditional cultures and values of the two countries have not changed much since then but surely the perceptions have. If it is possible today, it was possible then and is possible in other contexts too.
When as adults, when we see our child in a fist fight with another child over something, almost of all of us try to intervene and help them understand that probably fist fight was the not the most appropriate solution to whatever the situation was. At the same time, when we look at our mutual problems, which are more complex, we tend to forget to practice what we preach. From time to time we, intelligent and mature adults, fail to handle our problems, disagreements and conflicts in the most appropriate way. And like the two fighting kids, try to blame the other for provoking another. Can we as Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and others or as Sri Lankans, Americans, Indians, Serbians, Cubans, Germans, Israelites and others honestly say that nothing could have and/or can in future prevent the bloodshed of our fellow human beings? As a way of moving forward, this section discusses: cost benefit analysis, finding common grounds and shared vision.
The paper recommends to those who advocate that wars will lead to some kind of well being to their specific countries and/groups to analyze the potential benefits of any war against the cost being paid. Cost of the current wars around the world is (a) immeasurable resources, (b) hundreds of thousands of lives (c) physical, psychological and social wounds, (d) destruction and devastation in affected areas, (e) future adverse effects of wars such as unexploded ordnances and finally (f) increased hatred, which may lead to several other wars. What benefits are worth of this price? Can an ideology be truthfully promoted at this cost?
For the sake of the benefits of the future generations, for the ideals one is proud of and for the legacy one wants to leave, to rethink is not too much to ask for.
Finding Common Grounds
Since the cultural filters are very different from each other, there will be conflicts but we need to change the ways of conflict resolution. Honesty is likely to pay for itself in that ﬁrst contact; polite education of the other party can only beneﬁt in the long term. However, it is a two way street. Establishing the boundaries of our Allies’ and our own cultural and legal characteristics will only come with ﬁrst showing respect for the local boundaries in customs and culture (Therriault & Wulf 2006).
When we begin to look beyond our cultural filters and linguistic interferences, deep inside all societies advocate for forgiveness, peace and love. For example the word jihad, which is known around the world but has different meanings and connotations to different people. ‘Jihad’, which literally means striving and generally occurs as part of the expression jihad ﬁ sabil illah, striving in the path of God (Streusand & Tunnell IV 2006). If to be a ‘Jihadi’ means striving in the path of God, every religious person is a Jihadi, regardless of religion or nationality. And if Jihad is in the path of God, then every true Jihadi will go towards love and forgiveness because God is forgiving and loving.
The holy Quran says, “In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate”. Jesus was not advocating for revenge and hatred when he said, “Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either”. The Dalai Lama posits love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive. Buddha said, “Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule. Rabbi Menachem Mendle said, “Our only way out is to learn compassion without cause. To care for each other simply because that ‘other’ exists”. Mahatma Gandhi objected to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.
We cannot to start a process of coming together until we forgive, accept and empathize with each other. It would be easier to find common grounds if we look at shared needs. In order to find common grounds we need to (a) refine and use our diplomatic skills more than ever, (b) negotiate while respecting each other’s leadership (c) utilize a collaborative process to convince each other with tolerance, (d) prepare to be flexible and (e) where agreeing is not possible, agree to disagree deferentially.
Assiduous dialoguing is essential to reach a mutually acceptable pact for parties involved. The focus of such process must be the ‘issues’ and not groups of human beings. Nonetheless, agreements are sustainable only if they are understood and acceptable at the grassroots. A bottom-up approach is recommended to set the framework for negotiations and once the agreements are reached comprehensive top down methods are required to ensure that a common understanding and commitment is attained at all levels of the relevant factions.
Let’s take a moment to visualize that all the resources, power and wisdom that are spent on wars around the world is diverted to feeding the hungry, providing shelters to the homeless, giving appropriate health care to the sick and bringing smiles to faces covered with dirt and wet with tears. The author recognizes that no matter how beautiful this vision is, it not practical and probably cannot be realized in a short span of time.
As responsible citizens of the world we must try to move towards this vision. Especially, now, when many players in the world are equipped with Nuclear weapons. We cannot continue to risk our future. Recently, a young graphic designer in a conversation expressed his fear about a potential nuclear war. He said, “If the world leaders do not learn to negotiate and there is a nuclear war, the world would go back to stone age”. His fear is not based on any research but is important because it represents the fear and mistrust of millions of youth around the world on their leaders.
In today’s age of globalization, where there is much greater interdependence between states, it is the best time ever to develop a shared vision. Whether rich or poor states, developed, developing or under-developed countries, all hold overlapping dreams that can constitute a shared vision, such as (a) Economic prosperity and international trade opportunities, (b) Freedom to serve God according to local traditions, (c) Opportunities for optimum growth and development for children, and (d) Well being, respect and independence. It might be difficult and painstaking but it can be done.