Last Wednesday was our “cuts ‘n copy” session for Krista’s interview with Malka Haya Fenyvesi and Aziza Hasan. Fenyvesi and Hasan are co-founders of NewGround, a project that reaches out to members of Jewish and Muslim communities and brings them together for dialogue and “doesn’t shy away from discussing the tough topics such as, identity, gender, pluralism and Israel/Palestine.” One phrase that grabbed me is when Fenyvesi explained that NewGround encourages “curiosity over assumptions” during its dialogue sessions.

NewGround fellows.
(photo: a NewGround session, courtesy of Aziza Hasan)

It’s a common-sense idea: when going into a situation of existing conflict, one’s assumptions are likely to continue feeding that conflict. But curiosity — about other religious traditions, other ways of living, alternative ways of seeing the world — has the potential to span seemingly unbridgeable gaps.

One thing that seems to drive many of us at Speaking of Faith is a shared curiosity, which has taken the show to many unexpected places. Hearing Malka Haya Fenyvesi’s “curiosity over assumptions” was refreshing in its practical value — as a means of bringing people closer together.

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How far we can go down the rocky road of preconceived notions and assumptions! I have heard Jewish, Christian and Muslim children, ages 11 and 12 speak about how moved they were that their interfaith friends were interested in how they worship, what their tradition means, and how each tradition calls them to be peace makers. It is very powerful stuff.

NewGround is on the Speaking of Faith Blog. Stay tuned for the full interview to be aired in October.

In Don Miguel Ruiz's book, The Four Agreements, he writes about Toltec wisdom. One of the agreements is "Don't make assumptions" he explains, "All the sadness and drama you have lived in your life was rooted in making assumptions and taking things personally. Take a moment to consider the truth of this statement. The whole world of control between humans is about making assumptions and taking things personally. Our whole dream of hell is based on that."

I love this maxim of curiosity over assumptions. I have discovered the value of taking this approach in my work (teacher/film maker) and in life but have never had such a succinct and clear way of stating it - until now. It also nests nicely with the idea of being honest rather than being 'right' (or as Aziza Hasan elegantly put it honesty rather than the 'truth').

It's so exciting to see that this kind of dialogue is happening. This conflict is at the heart of the so many problems in the Middle-East, and the only way to move forward is by talking, not bombing.

Love it! I highly recommend listening to this invaluable radio program. Kudos to Malka and Aziza who are great leaders doing tough and important work.

Hi Steve. "However, it's fair to say that not all Afghan women's groups agree with the ptisoion set out above."Well, no, it's not quite fair to say that. RAWA (i.e. Malalai Joya) has reverted to its Maoist roots, and enjoys greater support among rich "liberals" in Southern California than it does in Afghanistan, where Joya, I'm afraid, is regarded as a faintly ridiculous character, at best.There may well be some Afghan feminists who support some sort of "troops out" ptisoion. Apart from the utterly marginal RAWA, I know of none, and I have never met one. I spent three weeks in Afghanistan last year interviewing Afghan progressives, liberals, secularists, human rights activists, and feminists across the spectrum, from the left to the right. Not one responded to the "troops out" ptisoion so fashionable in the rich countries of the west with anything other than astonishment, amusement or utter contempt.Cheers,TG