How Leadership Determines Dialouge

Photo of the Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Image via Wikipedia

This week had been a grueling one. Just finished a course on “Contextualization.” But I’m not complaining of being drained by stuff that requires one to think. If anything it makes me more motivated.

Anyway, during the course on Contextualization, we were doing some discussions on the weaknesses of Asian churches (and our Western counterpart). I pointed out that one thing that is noticeable in Asian churches in general, because of the way Asians do leadership (hierarchical or in some ways autocratic), there seems to be difficulty when one wants to dialouge on issues, or just to say, a normal dialouge on opposing views. But, this is not to say that all Asians struggle with this. I’m simply taking this on a general sense.

Based on my own experience, I’ve struggled with this. Having opposing views on things, stuff about doing church, was what got me in hot soup with leaders in a church I worked and served before. It had nothing to do with doctrinal matters but on the how one should do church. I was in their view a disrespectful young adult who did not respect the views of the leaders. To cut the story short, we never did had the opportunity to dialouge, which was the thing that I wanted. Decisions were made and the rest is history.

But this inability to dialouge on matters of importance, is not only something that one encounters in church, but on a broader scale as well. Being a pluralistic country, Malaysia struggles with the issue on dialouge as well. There have been ugly tussles between religions and one of the reasons that might contribute to this is the influence of a typical Asian leadership mentality. Although our national leaders might call Malaysia to be a democratic country, that is something far from evident taking the recent Bersih 2.0 rally which the Malaysian Government labeled as illegal. (I’ve posted something on this with some links that might show why Malaysia is not really a Democratic country.)

Following a recent article by The Star which can be read here, Malaysian Prime Minister called for mutual respect from religions in the country. But to my understanding, based on the religious tension coming from the banning of the word “Allah” by the government, which was something of a hot issue a few months back, there seems to be no commitment to the term of mutual respect that Najib calls for. For, the notion of engagement, implies that we come into discussion of controversial issues with an open mind. To my understanding, in the context of Malaysia, respect, discussion and engagement all have different bearings when wielded in the interpretation of authoritative leaders. But for these words to come into their intended meaning, there needs to be some kind of controversial issue that people come to engage in and find viable solutions for the sake of peace to be possible.

In my contention, when leaders (in a general observation of an Asian context) say, lets have dialouge, what they mean is actually, “Let’s have dialouge that follows my standard of how we are to resolve things, for I (or a certain party that is in power) am the one most capable of seeing issues on an objective level.”

I’m not sure if anyone resonates with me on this but based on my own experience, that is how I see and reflect on what it actually means to dialouge in an Asian context. Again, I do have to stress that not all Asians think in this manner as a lot have been influenced by Western thought, which is good. I’m just saying on a general level, it seems that an old way of thinking is still very much at home in how Asians think about leadership and dialouge.

I’d like very much for some discussions on this. You might bring to the table some other views that I’m not aware of. A critique is most welcomed I would add.

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