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Update on Jewish/Islam/Christian Dialogue from the Israeli-Based Interfaith Encounter Association

I don’t usually post these announcements to the blog, but I thought this one would provide a good example of the kinds of updates you can receive from the Interfaith Encounter Association. If your work is related to Jewish/Palestian dialogue, you may want to subscribe to this announcement list by emailing iea-reports-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.

The theme of this month’s IEA-Reut/Sedaqa meeting in Jerusalem on June 28th was on Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Through themes such as these, we learn how to build a society, which exercises the commandments and their nuances of forgiveness we spoke about. We were a group of 12 people, which included a visit from a Methodist minister: Rev. Christine Hauke from England and two new members, Fr. Louis Bohte, a Franciscan Friar living in Bethlehem and Rev. Kees Jan Rodenburg, a Dutch Reform Church minister. We welcome you both to our group!

Karmela opened the meeting by suggesting to the members that they should please make a strong effort to arrive on time and sent her condolences and blessings to Leah and her family, who lost her father recently.

Louis who explained that this prayer was written in 1912 in Normandy, France and that it has a spiritual connection to St. Francis read the Peace Prayer in English. Suhair, a Moslem read it in Arabic and Esther, an Israeli Jew read it in Hebrew. The fact that we say this together in front of ‘Someone’ who is bigger than us, makes it spiritually effective.

Karmela began by telling us that this notion of reconciliation suggests processes of healing and restoration – applied not only to individuals and families, but also to social and ethnic groups and to entire nations. Here the word sometimes becomes another term for aspects of peace, or harmony or good-neighbourly relations.

The Latin root concilium suggests a deliberative process in which the conflicting partners meet each other ‘in council’ to work out their differing views and to arrive at some common agreement. But we need to think of ‘reconciliation’ as involving more than mere negotiations; it points to some profound change in consciousness.

Forgiveness is of paramount importance in the Bible, which is full of texts related to this theme. In the Christian profession of faith, the Creed, Christians profess to ‘believe in the forgiveness of sins’. What do Christians believe when they repeat these words?

Karmela distributed three texts from the New Testament, pointing out certain nuances proper to Christianity. Some highlights from the texts
were: ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we also forgive our trespassers’ This means that God will only forgive us if we have forgiven our trespassers.

And in Matthew there is the verse:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your father who is in heaven

We Christians are asked to love our enemy and pray for those who persecute usthat we may be sons and daughters of our Father in heaven.

After Karmela’s presentation, we split into two groups, with representatives of the three religions in each group, and everyone was invited to share teachings and practices related to this subject from his/her own tradition. Lively discussions ensued around this topic.

Rafiqa, Mufida and Suhair spoke about reconciliation in Islam, and touched on the history of pre-Islamic clan rule in Saudi Arabia. When Islam came, it sought to eradicate clan wars, based on which clan was mightier and therefore the greeting “Saalam Aleikum” evolved – wishing peace on each other when you first meet. The Koran verse “believers are brothers” includes not only Moslems but also all believers of God. Other Koranic quotes to note – “spreading dispute and enmity is worse than murder.” Reconciliation in families is so important that divorce is a last resort. Mediators must intervene first. In Islam one cannot force others to embrace religion, otherwise it will not come from the heart. When the Prophet Mohammed moved to Medina he made peace between two warring clans Aws and Khazraj. He said about reconciling with your enemies – “if they are inclined to make peace, so make peace, and depend on God”.

Leah mentioned some points in the Jewish tradition of forgiveness. During the time of the Temple, the priests offered sacrifices, which would atone for national sin. Individuals had to bring guilt offerings and sin offerings. Today, Jews have the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) to atone for their sins, but God will not forgive those that have not forgiven others. Esther brought up the stories of Jacob and Esau with the final result being reconciliation and forgiveness between the brothers – the same for Joseph who forgave his brothers for selling him into slavery. She discussed how during the 10 days before Yom Kippur Jews must prepare for the Day of Atonement by focusing on changing their ways – by prayer, doing good, returning to social justice. Forgiveness is an act of graciousness. It requires great strength of willpower to be able to admit a wrongdoing and just as great willpower – to be able to forgive.

The session ended with delicious treats brought by Rafiqa from Abu Gosh. Sitting around the table together in informal conversation contributed very much to a sense of camaraderie between us all.

Leah wrote this report in consultation with Rafiqa and Karmela (the three coordinators of the Jerusalem group).

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The Interfaith Encounter Association
P.O.Box 3814, Jerusalem 91037, Israel
Phone: +972-2-6510520
Fax: +972-2-6510557
Website: www.interfaith-encounter.org

Board:
Sr. Karmela Farrugia, Chair
Sheikh Muhammad Kiwan, Vice-Chair
Mr. Shlomo Alon, Vice-chair
Sheikh Ali Birani
Rabbi Dov Maimon
Ms. Ibtisam Mahamid
Deacon Eng. Jirias Mansour
Sheikh Tawfiq Salama

Dr. Yehuda Stolov, Director
E-mail: msyuda@phys.huji.ac.il

PLEASE CONTRIBUTE TO THE INTERFAITH ENCOUNTER ASSOCIATION. SUPPORT ONE OR MORE OF OUR PROGRAMS AND JOIN US AS A MEMBER IN WORKING FOR INTERFAITH UNDERSTANDING AND PEACE. All contributions are welcome, small and large!

NEW: Donate on-line at: http://www.interfaith-encounter.org/donations.htm
***

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Sandy Heierbacher
Sandy Heierbacher co-founded the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) with Andy Fluke in 2002, with the 60 volunteers and 50 organizations who worked together to plan NCDD’s first national conference. She served as NCDD's Executive Director between 2002 and 2018. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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