Today’s OttawaWatch will feature three disparate subjects, tied together with the recurring theme of — hopefully biblical — conflict management.
Edna and I are heading west for a few days, later in the month. The occasion is the 2011 Mel Smith Lecture at Trinity Western University on January 27. Your humble scribe has been asked to deliver this year’s lecture, addressing this topic: ‘The role of a Christian press in a pluralistic society.’
More details about the lecture, Mel Smith, and my own particular background as it relates to Christian publishing, can be found at www.twu.ca.
The event coincides with some interesting era-passing with respect to BC Christian News, which I had a hand in founding, back in 1982.
For readers in the Vancouver and Fraser Valley area who might want to take in the lecture, it occurs at 7 pm in the Northwest Auditorium. I understand there will be enough parking spaces.
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From this perspective, the most interesting part of last week’s federal cabinet shuffle was Diane Ablonczy’s appointment to the foreign affairs minister of state spot. In brackets behind her title is the word ‘Americas.’
This is an excellent spot for Ablonczy. She is a lawyer who has a good handle on mediation and conflict resolution. As the first president and later communication director of the Reform Party, she helped Preston Manning build that movement in its early years. Later, she wrote the playbook, so to speak, that Stephen Harper was able to draw from, in pulling together the Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservative parties. As it happens, she is a person of faith who draws on that faith to work at conciliation in the political sphere.
In her new ‘Americas’ role, she will be able to draw on all that background to help make the ‘trade-aid’ concept work in relations with the various nations in North, Central and South America. I have mentioned, before, that making ‘trade-aid’ work in this hemisphere requires a fair amount of collaboration among several ministries — foreign affairs, CIDA and international trade among them.
Ablonczy won’t lead the process, of course. But both her demeanour and skills set make her a good ‘servant leader’ in that role.
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Tucson, Arizona, has been much in the news, because of the shooting of United States Congress Representative Gabrielle Giffords.
Much of the talk has been about heated political rhetoric and the question of whether such talk causes unbalanced people to turn violent.
My small contribution to the conversation is that our adversarial, albeit democratic, system of governance helps create the mood for such rhetoric.
And I would not argue with people who maintain that the right to free speech should not be hindered by the ‘thought police’ who run some human rights tribunals.
I would also maintain that there is a different way to go — for people who are prepared, when the opportunity presents itself, to ‘turn enemies into friends.’
It is more than just the idea of ‘loving your enemies.’ That can be both condescending and inadequate. Having the mindset that can actually envisage friendship instead of enmity can go a long way to cooling off potentially vitriolic or violent situations.
And the ‘enemies into friends’ approach would include encouraging, where possible, those friends who seem to have crossed the line into unbalanced and potentially violent behaviour, to get the help they need.