I’m poorly placed to debate John Searle (Opinion, 20/3) on the value of Archbishop Freier’s planned hospitality toward former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami. Searle is a far more engaged and informed observer of Middle-Eastern politics than I expect I will ever be. His concerns and those of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria deserve to be treated thoughtfully.
But there are occasions when a layman’s assessment might be constructive. Perhaps this is one instance? Searle is concerned that for a religious leader merely to meet Khatami would lend his cause an undeserved legitimacy. Perhaps he’s right; perhaps that is a risk. But then could it be that such a strategy – with its risks – is well worth testing, indeed long overdue? Other strategies aplenty have proven fruitless, despite innumerable attempts spanning decades if not centuries. Principled stands such as that advocated by the JCCV, by which community leaders have declined even to meet with others of doubtful repute, have with all respect delivered little of the peace we all desperately seek.
Perhaps it’s time to try respectful listening and open conversation, despite the doubts. It worked a treat for Jesus; it might just work for one of His servants.