Dialog an important aspect of democracy: former Danish legislator

Dialog an important aspect of democracy: former Danish legislator

Former member of the Danish parliament, Ozlem Sara Cekic, speaking in an event themed ‘A Cup of Coffee, a Glimpse of Tolerance, a Wish for Empathy’, in Jakarta, Wednesday (16/10/2019). (ANTARA/Aria Cindyara)

We hang out only with people who think like us and talk about the others with disdain. When we meet people who are discriminating or dehumanizing people or groups, we don’t insist on speaking to them to challenge their opinions
Jakarta (ANTARA) - The culture of dialog is one of the most important aspects of democracy, despite the difficulty of it being conducted among people with opposing views, a former member of the Danish parliament, Ozlem Sara Cekic, said.

At an event themed ‘A Cup of Coffee, a Glimpse of Tolerance, a Wish for Empathy’, in Jakarta, Wednesday, Cekic said that in the world today, there are a lot of people who hold definitive and often extreme opinions about others without knowing much about them.

“We hang out only with people who think like us and talk about the others with disdain. When we meet people who are discriminating or dehumanizing people or groups, we don’t insist on speaking to them to challenge their opinions,” she said.

It can lead to the breakdown of democratic societies, she believed. “Conversation is the most difficult thing in a democracy and also the most important,” she reiterated.

Such conversations and dialogues are not carried out to shift one’s mindset but to understand and accept diverse points of view of others, she further said.

In the spirit of tolerance and empathy, she urged the people to keep an open mind towards opposing views, as it could be the weapon against hate speech and violence.

“If you want to prevent hate and violence, we have to talk to as many people as possible, for as long as possible, while being as open as possible. That can only be achieved through debate, critical conversation and insisting on dialogue that does not demonize people,” she said.

Cekic has initiated the #DialogueCoffee movement where she asked one of the people who was constantly sending her hate mails during her time as a parliament member, to have a conversation over a cup of coffee.

Since the first dialogue she had in 2010, she has been talking to hundreds of her ‘haters’ over a coffee meeting, trying to understand the origin of the hate and find a common language and develop a toolkit for building bridges.  

 

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