I’m a firm believer that your story is your story. As it is rooted in your experience and by virtue, your story is a simple retelling of your experience. It is not then a ventured opinion that is open for debate and scrutiny. When this understanding is in place, it opens room for everyone to learn from the stories they hear and to be touched by the significance of the story. We affirm this point in all the work we do with companies when mapping their Organisational Narratives. But in recent days there has been a news story that has made me question whether such reverence of experience is valid. It is the furore stirred up by Pope Benedict quoting a Byzantine leader who slated the impact Mohammed had on the world in spreading Islam.
The Islam community has lashed out at his speech and the inference regarding his belielfs on Islam. Their response, understood as a story, has been characterised by pain and hurt. As a Christian African Westerner (sho, a mouthfull) I have found myself believing that the Muslim world has just misinterpreted the quote and not seen it in the grander picture of what Benedict is trying to achieve: greater tolerance and acceptance. But then, in listening to an interview with a Muslim cleric on TV this morning about the issue, I wonder if I have fallen into the trap of subjugating the “story” the Muslims are telling us? For the Muslims, from what I can understand, the issue here is that Bendict did not distance himself and his personal stance from the content of the quote. By virtue of this not happening, his has covertly stated he is anti-Muslim. But, I do not know if I am right on this.
How do we really open ourselves to the messages and lessons behind stories? How do we open ourselves to another’s story, no matter how different and imcomprehensible it seems to us?