People in conversation

EP Addresses the Crisis at the US Capitol

We at Essential Partners condemn the violent attempt to disrupt the democratic process that occurred last week at the US Capitol.

EP’s mission is to support healthy dialogue about the issues that matter most to a community. We teach people to make complex, difficult conversations possible because open, inclusive, healthy public discourse is a pillar of democracy. Since our founding more than thirty years ago, our goal has been to shore up the foundations of democratic life through dialogue.

Dialogue in the abstract, however, doesn’t mean much. Big, glossy, awareness campaigns that encourage people to “talk to the other side” may fill column inches, but they are unlikely to change things on the ground. They can’t help folks who actually need to talk about a complicated difference of beliefs, values, and identities.

What do we suggest? In this moment of crisis, turn to your community. Dialogue does have the power to transform the spaces where we live, work, worship, and learn together.

Look for opportunities to help people feel truly heard and seen in all their complexity. That feeling has been proven to disrupt the destructive and radicalizing cycles that lead to political violence. We have seen it firsthand, working in communities shattered by civil war and across intractable political conflicts.

If talking with someone who holds a different view is just too hard right now, don’t do it. Dialogue isn’t a mandate for every person or every situation. Instead, consider having an intentional discussion with people you trust. Holding space for dialogue is a muscle that can be conditioned in many circumstances, and dialogue can help you reflect, grieve, and process together even in the absence of explicit differences.

We believe that democracy begins at the kitchen table, on the front stoop, in break rooms, church basements, and community centers. When those spaces can sustain healthy dialogue across differences, democracy will flourish at every level. It will be resilient, responsive, and robust enough to face the challenges of our modern world.

There are forces at work to drive radicalization and polarization. They can and must be overcome. We believe dialogue is a powerful tool to make that happen. An unshakable commitment to democracy remains the heart of this organization.

If your community, school, organization, or faith institution has been struggling to make sense of the current crisis—or some other issue—please reach out to us. We are here to help.

Katie Hyten is co–Executive Director of Essential Partners.

John Sarrouf Co-Executive Director and Director of Program Development at Essential Partners. John has facilitated dialogues on issues such as sustainability, gender, Israel-Palestine, religious pluralism, and technology and sexuality.