Pope Benedict XVI is working hard to mend relations with the Islamic religious community after he offended many Muslims during a Sept.12 speech. How is he doing in the crisis communications front? I’d give him a B-.
The Pope met today with Muslim diplomats in Italy, which is a postive step. Face-to-face meetings where people can have conversations are crucial; dialogue helps people understand one another as people, demonstrate respect, and assess the genuineness of beliefs and comments. Issuing formal statements rarely quells an emotionally-charged issue, which was the Pope’s first action.
While today’s meeting was good, it would have been better for the Pope to go to a predominantly Muslim country and to have had this face-to-face meeting earlier. When grave misunderstandings occur, it’s best to get talking sooner than later, stemming swelling anger before it causes irreparable riffs.
For the Pope to keep up his crisis communciations grade point average I’d encourage him to get out of Italy and have more conversations with moderate and respected Muslim diplomats in the months to come. — on their turf. I also recommend that he not cower and toss aside his beliefs that religiion and violence don’t go together. That would be disingenuous.
Similarly, I’d encourage Muslims to not simply issue statements and protests when upset, but engage in a conversation to help foster understanding. The Pope’s comment that religion and violence shouldn’t go together is on the minds of people around the world. If Islam means peace, many in the world need moderate Muslims to be more proactive in helping the world to understand this.