The global community are aware of the challenges that face us as a result of military engagements in both Libya and Afghanistan.
In the case of both countries there are a mix of tribal groups, different religions, and with different ideologies, values, rituals and certainly diverse cultures.
The challenges presented are exacerbated by the need to rebuild infrastructures damaged and destroyed by warfare, while at the same time reconciling extremely ideas of what sort of government should replace the existing dictatorship or military regime. .
We all know what is needed. What is needed is that the diverse groups come together and agree on common goals and an agreement on the way to achieve those goals. The overriding need is to have an outcome of peace and maybe democracy. This is underpinned also by the West who want economic well-being and in both cases Oil.
So what are the factors for consideration?
First that the different groups listen to each other, then there has to be respect and understanding based on an acknowledgement that cultural diversity is a reality.
So first - what is culture, and is there room for compromise?
“Culture is defined by histories, ideologies, values and the way we behave because of them. These ideologies, beliefs and behaviours are the structures that hold society together. Respect for histories, ideologies and values of other cultures, is the key to peace and social stability”
See www.pseconsultancy.com free download Cultural Well-being and Cultural Capital, Chapter 4
When cultures come together behaviours and rituals of different cultures need to be shared and compromise might be necessary. This is only possible if there is an understanding and acceptance of cultural diversity.
This understanding is easier if cultures recognise what is negotiable and what is not negotiable.
It is easy to share and discuss the histories, many of these are shared. Values can also be shared and again many are shared. What is harder to negotiate are the rituals and beliefs that go with the ideologies, particularly when these rituals and ideologies are linked to religions.
As I have said in other blogs, religion and spirituality are different and in the case of religious tradition the belief systems are often inflexible.
This mean we need to start the diolague with discussion about spirituality, ideology and then religion. This would be a good start, but an enormous challenge.
In Afghanistan the Taliban have strict rules about the role of women, the behaviours of its members and the role of its leaders.
These are not about the religion itself, certainly not about spirituality. They are rules set to define or control the religion and behaviours. In Libya the same challenge may well appear as the more militant religious leaders seek power and control.
So is there a way through the clash of cultures? I would suggest there is, but it is anything but easy. It has to involve the groups coming together and really understanding and educate each other about their spirituality, their ideologies, and their religions – in that order. Compare, contract, educate and try to understand each other.
Sharing histories is the start, then sharing values, or at least understanding, and then setting up some common rituals or behaviours that will enable the leaders to understand, share and compromise.
Whether this is possible will be difficult, but much easier if the guns stop and the groups get together and start the discussions with the things that they share, not the things that divide them.
The West must only play a role as referee. The power must be shared by the diverse cultural groups. Can this happen? Yes, but only if the differences are respected and acknowledged.
Ideologies that are threatened or disrespected resort to conflict and sadly the casualties will be the people of Libya and Afghanistan.
A similar discussion can be taken to combating racism within European countries and United States. It is also important for us in New Zealand and Australia when we see a fear for refugees, Pacific Island peoples and anyone who has a religion and culture that is different from our own.
Respect, Understanding, Communication and Education are the keys.
Understanding the cultures and sharing differences in ideologies will enhance peace and provide values and history that are accepted and enjoyed for the common good of all countries.