Last week I attended a lecture about Syria and the Middle East. The lecture was delivered by Rev. David Nazar, SJ who was recently appointed by Pope Francis to be the Rector of The Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome. The Oriental is a Catholic funded University that teaches Eastern Christianity to people of all faiths from around the world. The Rector is similar to a university president.
Fr. Nazar is an expert in Middle East Studies and made the discussion about Syrian and Middle Eastern refugees come alive. For example, one of the key points in his presentation is the fact that Syria had a population of 10,000,000 people before the Arab Spring and now there are 5,000,000 people living there. The sheer volume of humanity leaving the country; likely never to return, is staggering as are the demands on the European countries assimilating the refugees.
I walked away from this lecture with three shifts in my thinking:
1. I want to learn more about the Middle East, its history and the cultural, religious and political aspects of the region. If I don’t understand the Middle East I cannot comment on the dynamics intelligently. One book that was recommended to me is A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East by David Fromkin.
2. I have copious amounts to be grateful for. I live a life that is comfortable beyond measure and live without the threat of death from tyrannical dictators. My family has not traveled thousands of miles by any means possible in the hopes of gaining refugee status and I’m not struggling to learn a foreign language while also trying to support my family. That is an amazing and even herculean feat.
3. As a Catholic, the Catholic Church; and especially the Jesuit’s, have an intellectual rigor and are far more welcoming about divergent faiths and perspectives than I knew. Father Nazar spoke both lovingly and eloquently about all faiths and role modeled religious tolerance and acceptance.
No matter how stressful and tumultuous our week is going, we must create the white space to master how we think and perceive the world around us while becoming more informed about the world around us. When our mindset is closed to new ideas and perspectives we live a closed and limited life. When our employees and coworkers have a closed mindset the opportunities to provide meaningful value to customers, patients and our most important constituents is stunted.
Thank you Fr. Nazar. You changed my perspective of an important issue and I’m grateful for your ability to expand my thinking with insight, compassion and eloquence.
Monday Morning Mindset Challenge:
What part of your personal and or professional life would you benefit from changing your perspective? What is the one action you can take to do that this week?