International Leadership Forum in Skopje, Macedonia
February 26, 2014
At the Boris Trajkovski International Foundation.
“The Faith of the Leader who serves the Nation”. _________________________________________________
There were several occasions, when I met Boris Trajkovski , the President of the State of Macedonia, in the VIP lounge at Zurich Airport. These short meetings were more than simply an act of friendship. The President wanted to pray with the Bishop of his Church for the journey and for the people he was going to meet on his official visit.
I am starting with this witness, because it tells us more than many words about the faith of a leader. It reminds us, that Christian leadership is based on prayer.
The starting point for the agenda of a day is not the list of subjects and problems and meetings the day has in store for us. The checklist of the day is prepared and under girded by prayer.
For many leaders, the list of the daily priority is: 1. Work, 2. Relationships,
We all have to learn again and again, that Spirituality comes first.
Let me now highlight the following:
The faith of the leader is the base for a Christian concept of values and human quality. Crucial values are:
1. The “common good”
2. Human dignity and respect
3. Pathways to peace
I asked many of my friends the following question:
What view of humanity does a contemporary European Leader hold?
When I ask this question I discover great uncertainty. But then they are explaining to me, that modern women and men no longer orient themselves by overarching systems of meaning, their view is “patchwork-like” and practical: they say today this and to morrow that, they say, what the people would like to hear, and what secures their re-election to the leadership role. It seems, that they are not really interested in basic values or views of humanity. They care about the fast changing hotspots in the society pushed by the media. They are striving for their political survival and the conservation of power.
In contrary to what we recognize around us, the Judeo-Christian Heritage is based on a concept of values and human quality. It is always concerned for the “common good”. It is not the time in my short contribution to preach now, but let me simply refer to the so called “Golden Rule” Jesus gave his disciples: (Matthew 7:12) “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you, for this is the law and the prophets”. Our orientation towards Jesus leads us to the ancient human quality of the common good. A leader of faith is seeking the common good.
In our society we need models how we do restore the basic principle of the common good. We need leaders who do not measure their success by what they can profit for themselves, their families, their friends, their party, and their ethnicity…
We need leaders who care for the others, those who are not loved and esteemed, who are not our friends, who are marginalized, who are poor, who are the others. Jesus was even asking his disciples to love their enemies! The common good is what serves the development of a society as a whole.
2. The second value, which is crucial for Christian Leadership in the modern society, is human dignity or respect for one another. The Judeo-Christian Heritage teaches us about the uniqueness of every person. If we lose this perspective, that every human being is created and loved by God we are stumbling into an Erosion of the human dignity. The Bible even talks about God’s becoming human pointing to Jesus of Nazareth. The Early Church Father Athanasius said: “Jesus has become like we are, so that we might become like him.” It is an ongoing learning process to become more human, more like Jesus. And it is never to late for a new beginning. The catalizers in this process are faith, hope and love.
The second value that is crucial for Christian Leadership in the modern society is human dignity or respect for one another.
3. And finally the third crucial aspect for a leadership based on faith is the readiness to search and to go the Pathways to Peace.
The factual matters of public life are many-layered and complex. And if we are striving for the common good, we are dependent upon dialogue and a meaningful participation in thinking and talking about helpful and sustainable solutions. This assumes a very high level of competence.
So far, so good; but what, if the dialogue is only driving into strong separate standpoints and into an absolutization of the different views of the matter?
A Christian leader as a follower of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, is always stretching out his hand to build stronger relationships for peace and justice in this world we share. We do have the experience, that fraternal relationship and friendships across the boundaries are indeed a foundation and pathway to peace.
The pathways of peace are related to a pattern of life that reflects human participation in God’s love for all creation. A Christian leader is committed to pray for peace, to teach the generations about peace and to practice peace.
Together we commit to strive for the common good, to protect the human dignity of all and to practice justice and peace in the communities and societies.
Together we learn to see humanity through Christ. Or, as Dostoevsky said: To love someone means seeing him the way God intended him to be.
Heinrich Bolleter, Bishop of the United Methodist Church in Central and Southern Europe, retired since 2006.