Inter-religious and International Relations in the Middle East:Toward Peace and Stability
This past weekend (Dec. 19-22) I participated in an amazing MEPI (Middle East Peace Initiative) Interfaith Peace Conference in the Dan Jerusalem Hotel on French Hill.
The incredible highlight of the MEPI event, and as far as I know the first time in Israeli history, a group of interfaith leaders went up together to the Temple Mount and stood inside the Dome of the Rock in a joint peace initiative. Understandably, this was not publicized in the media. I am posting with some trepidation on my FB page and Blog, and forgive me if I take it down soon.
We were three Orthodox Rabbis about to go up to the Temple Mount with Sheikhs, Priests and religious leaders from around the world from Korea to Norway, from the US to Jordan, from China to Australia, from Azerbaijan to Switzerland. First we walked together through the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem chanting " Peace, Shalom, Shalom Aleikum, Peace to the Middle East". Then, invited by the Mufti's representative, we were led inside the Dome of the Rock, to the holiest site for the Jewish people. Never before have I stepped foot there (yes, we checked for a heter ahead of time, yes I went to the mikveh in advance).
At the mosque, our group had a private tutor by Yusef. I might be able to post photos. Afterwards, we went to the Kotel, the Chain of Generations and an Old City restaurant to discuss the ramifications of our visit. More to come...
Amongst the forty speakers at the MEPI Conference, there were a total of five Orthodox Rabbis (Michael Melchior Joseph Abittan, Yaakov Loft, Reuven Khaskin, and myself). I had the privilege of leading a short peace meditation on Oseh Shalom Bimromav on Sunday morning at the entrance to the Old City as well as a program for a dozen of the interfaith leaders near the Kotel. One of the ideas that I proposed is that at the next Jerusalem MEPI Conference scheduled for May 2014, that we dedicate a session to the One State solution as suggested by IPC (Israel Palestine Confederation) of which I am a Parliament delegate and on the governing board.
Here is the mission statement of MEPI about Solutions through Interfaith Cooperation:
"While the roots of the conflict in the land of Israel and Palestine are complex and labyrinthine, one can only wonder what might be possible if relations among Jews, Christians and Muslims were vastly improved". The speakers offered their wisdom on the relevance of interfaith cooperation for peace in Israel and Palestine.The main upshot of the MEPI conference was that interfaith dialogue and cooperation are essential prerequisites for peace and should not be ignored any more. Furthermore, faith leaders need to be better informed about geopolitical realities. The "soft power" approaches of religion and civil society should be grounded in a realistic understanding of the "hard power" realities, such as political, economic, demographic and historical realities. In this way, "soft power" advocates can make informed decisions and proposals.
One can see the incredible diversity in this list of speakers (in order of appearance):
Sheikh Ali Naim Birani, President, Jerusalem Forum for Interfaith and Cooperation among Religions
Ran Cohen, former Member of the Israeli Knesset
Prof. Eliezer Glaubach-Gal, President, UPF-Israel's Jerusalem Forum for Peace and Security
Fr. Joseph Saghbini, Auxiliary Patria, Auxiliary Patriarchal Vica, Greek-Melkite Catholic Patriarchate, Palestine
George E. Stephan, Regional Internal Auditor, Middle East Council of Churches Department of Services to Palestinian Refugees
Dr. Thomas G. Walsh, President, UPF International
Dr. Willem Frederick van Eekelen, Member, Netherlands Advisory Commission on European Integration, Netherlands
Dr. Alexandre Y. Mansourov, President, Great Falls Solutions International LLC, USA
Hon. Bob McEwen, Former Member, US House of Representatives
Rabbi Michael Melchior, Former Minister for Social Affairs and Diaspora, Israel
Mr. Aamir Javed Sheikh, President, Foundation Dialogue for Peace
Dr. Chang Shik Yang, Chairman, UPF International
Mr. Taj Hamad, Secretary General, UPF International
Mr. Emmanuel Dupuy, President, Institute for Prospective and Security Studies in Europe, France
Dr. Leo Gabriel, President, Institute for Intercultural Research and Cooperation, Austria
Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Department of Arabic Literature, Bar Ilan University, Israel
Ms. Patricia Raynaud Lalonde, Research Fellow, Institute for Prospective and Security Studies in Europe
Hon. Anne-Marie Vanderspeeten Lizin, Honorary Speaker, Senate of the Kingdom of Belgium
Rev. Dr. William A. McComish, President, Geneva Spiritual Appeal, Switzerland; Dean Emeritus, St. Peter’s Cathedral, Geneva
Dr. Nurit Hirschfeld, Director, UPF-Israel’s Jerusalem Forum for Interfaith and Cooperation among Religions
Rabbi Joseph Abittan, Director, Monotheistic Religions Council for the South of France
Dr. Michael W. Jenkins, Chairman, MCNY Group, USA
Rev. Hjortur Magni Johannsson, Head Minister, Free Lutheran Church, Iceland
Rabbi Reuven Khaskin, Israel, Educator and Tour Guide, Israel
Ms. Eliya Fruma Kranz, Executive Director, Silver Spring Jewish Center, USA
Shaikh Shafayat Mohamed, Principal, Darul Uloom Islamic Institute, USA
Pastor Philip Mousa Sahawneh, Pastor, Baptist Convention of Jordan
Mrs. Adi Sasaki, Director, UPF-Israel’s Jerusalem Office for Peace and Security
Mr. Emmanuel Chouraqui, Filmmaker, Beamlight, France
Hon. Nadia Hilou, Former Knesset Member, Israel
Mr. Michael Leonard McIntyre, President, Capital Region Interfaith Council, Canada
Mr. Hafid Ouardiri, President, Fondation pour l'Entre-connaissance-Genève, Switzerland
Mr. Heiner Handschin, President, UPF-Switzerland
Prof. Rafig Y. Aliyev, founder, IRSHAD Center of Islamic Studies, Azerbaijan
Prof. Dr. Adrian Holderegger, Dean Emeritus, University of Fribourg Department of Moral Theology and Ethics, Switzerland
Dr. Tsutomu Mizota, Professor Emeritus, Nagasaki National University, Japan
Dr. Nodar Sarjveladze, Chair, Foundation for the Development of Human Resources, Georgia
Dr. Young Tack Yang, Regional Chair, UPF-Middle East