I became a board member of Dialogue Fiji (DF) sometime between July and September, 2009 as one of the two government representatives who were initially involved with DF. The other government member pulled out when she went abroad for postgraduate studies. Thus began my personal and professional journey of self-discovery into an unfamiliar territory.
From the beginning of my involvement with DF, I was welcomed openly and made to feel at home. I knew many of the people on the board over a considerable length of time, knew something about their lives, their families, their work, their political and religious beliefs, many of which I shared and held close to my heart. They were individuals with excellent leadership qualities and strong views on how government should conduct its affairs. As a government representative, I was interested in listening to what they had to say.
If there is anything significant that has shifted my perspectives on life since joining DF, it is acquiring the art of listening to others, to different viewpoints, belief systems and understanding and appreciating the roots or sources of these ideas and the individuals who were expounding them. An important offshoot of this listening process is how to fuse these different ideas or viewpoints together and arrive at a common or neutral ground where solutions to our most common and critical problems can be resolved in an amicable, concrete and sustainable manner. Furthermore, I developed and improved my conversational skills.
I have taken these different ideas and viewpoints and the process of refining them and made them my own by redesigning or reshaping them and using them to resolve my own problems in my home with my immediate and extended family and relatives, in the work office situation, in the community where I reside, in the church where I worship and in dealing with my own people and their problems in the realm of the vanua. My time spent with DF has been a huge learning experience.
John Donne, the doyen of 17th century English metaphysical poetry once said something remarkable that might be relevant to the dialogue process and to paraphrase him, “no person is an island, entire of itself”. Thus, let us connect the dots in our ideas, in our thoughts and minds, in our hearts and souls and in our consciousness. Let us listen to each other, communicate our ideas, learn from the past, dissect the present, dream about the future, understand the problems that confront us, create safe spaces where we can collectively design solutions to resolve our most common and critical problems and hopefully build a better future for ourselves and our children. Nothing could be more important than that.
A Message from Dialogue Fiji Committee founding member,
Mrs Suliana Siwatibau.
From its tentative beginnings in Port Vila in May 2008, Dialogue Fiji has grown into a coalescence of peoples and organisations intent on walking together in a
process of national dialogue to help steer our country to peace, prosperity and
stability. It is our hope that the coalescence will continue to expand both in
participant numbers and in geographic coverage throughout Fiji.
We see great richness in harnessing ideas, and goodwill from our multi-cultural society.
Dialogue Fiji recognises that we live in a wounded society where suspicions and rejection lie close to the surface and any coming together must be facilitated with great sensitivity. We therefore resolutely affirm basic principles of inclusiveness, creating a safe space for open exchange, trust and confidentiality.
The practical implementation of our basic principles means that we accept all views as valid – given the context. We judge no one. We separate the person from the views, opinions and actions. We respect each person’s input into the dialogue and acknowledge each contribution as made in trust and in
We have hope that people will join our process because we believe that we all have the same goal for our country no matter our differences. In the words of our national anthem – we strive for “A land of freedom, hope and glory”.
Freedom is achieved with courage. Do we have the courage to acknowledge our mistakes and the hurt we have brought upon others in our society? Do we have the courage to come together to begin dialogue and move towards forgiveness and reconciliation? We need to begin by forgiving ourselves and accepting that for each of us, the action is not the person. We can all learn from past mistakes and move on.
Dialogue has to be the beginning of forgiveness and reconciliation for our wounded society. It will not be possible if we continue to stand back in non-engagement. We invite all citizens of Fiji to search deep within themselves for the spark of compassion that recognises our common humanity and therefore our different roles in building peace for our society.
Together we can achieve our dreams.