The world is in need of dialogue

Sent On: 
Sun, 2021-12-26
Newsletter Number: 

It is not common to reflect in an Arab-West Report newsletter on the urbi et orbi Christmas blessing of the Catholic Pope but this year it makes sense since he spoke about the need of dialogue and so did King Willem Alexander of the Netherlands. This is what Arab-West Report stands for.


Pope Francis


God, Pope Francis said, is in dialogue with humans through Jesus and so humans need to be in dialogue with one another. “Sisters and brothers, what would our world be like without the patient dialogue of the many generous persons who keep families and communities together?’ (Fratelli Tutti, 198). In this time of pandemic, we have come to realize this more and more. Our capacity for social relationships is sorely tried; there is a growing tendency to withdraw, to do it all by ourselves, to stop making an effort to encounter others and do things together. On the international level too, there is the risk of avoiding dialogue, the risk that this complex crisis will lead to taking shortcuts rather than setting out on the longer paths of dialogue. Yet only those paths can lead to the resolution of conflicts and to lasting benefits for all.”


Pope Francis referred to Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Israel and Palestine, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Myanmar, Sudan and South Sudan, Ethiopia, the Sahel countries and countries of North-Africa, countries and regions torn by various conflicts, asking Jesus to “grant peace and concord to the Middle East and the whole world. Sustain all those who provide humanitarian aid to peoples forced to flee from their homelands.” Pope Francis prays “Grant that, through dialogue, mutual respect and recognition of the rights and cultural values of every human being, the values of solidarity, reconciliation and peaceful coexistence may prevail in the hearts of the peoples of the Americas.” The pope is also praying to “comfort the victims of violence against women, which has increased in this time of pandemic. Offer hope to young children and adolescents suffering from bullying and abuse. Show consolation and warmth to the elderly, especially those who feel most alone. Give serenity and unity to families, the first educators of their children and the basis of the fabric of society.”


King Willem Alexander

King Willem Alexander spoke of a “defenceless child as a sign of hope.” This is a beautiful story, he said, since “Stories give meaning and purpose to our lives. By telling and listening to stories, we connect with each other. Each of us has our own story. After all, we humans are very different. We look at life in very different ways. We are free to think and believe what we want.” In all these stories are lots of similarities. Everyone wants to be heard. We have to listen to the people behind these stories, even if we know that we will never agree to a particular subject, but we need to keep searching for what unites us.


“Even if points of view are far apart, we must continue to live together. In the midst of all the uncertainty, everyone is looking for connection. Even under the thickest armor there is always the desire to work together with others for a better future.

The king refers to big issues such as the corona pandemic and climate change. We need to address these issues together.

Dr. Hamdi Zaqzouq  - photo: Egyptian State Information Service


This reminds me of a lecture of the late Dr. Hamdi Zaqzouq  [Ḥamdī Zaqzūq] who used the metaphor of humanity being like the crew on a ship. Only when they work together, they will be able to reach their port of destination safely. Division will make all of humanity perish.


We are in need of dialogue. The calls for this can be formulated in Christian, secular or Muslim language. Of course, these different formulations are needed. The pope was addressing Catholics in particular and Christians in general worldwide while King Willem Alexander addressed a Dutch population consisting of Christians, agnostics, atheists, Muslims and others. We look beyond our own cultural bubble and should respect the different ways these calls are formulated.


Wishing you peace and blessings in this season,


December 26, 2021


Cornelis Hulsman