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REPORT: "Revelation" - Third Regional Conference of the URI Middle-East & North-Africa Region

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  • Yehuda Stolov
    Dear friends, Please find below the report from the third regional conference of the URI MENA region, which took place in September in Amman, Jordan. Please
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 1, 2004
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      Dear friends,


      Please find below the report from the third regional conference of the URI MENA region, which took place in September in Amman , Jordan . Please note that the summary of the Muslim presentations is still missing and will be added to the website when it arrives.


      Yours, Yehuda



      Third regional conference of the URI Middle East & North Africa region

      9-12 September 2004

      Amman, Jordan


      The third regional conference of the Middle East and North Africa Region of the United Religions Initiative (www.uri.org) was opened on the late afternoon of Thursday, 9th of September 2004, with Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Druze participants representing 12 out of the 16 Cooperation Circles in the region, from 6 countries (Egypt, Israel, Jordan, The Palestinian Authority, Tunisia and Turkey). We were very happy that the Palestinian participants managed to arrive this time, unlike previous conferences, and regretted the fact that the representatives from the new URI CC in Iran were not able to secure their visas on time and were not able to be with us.


      We opened by personal introduction by each of the participants presenting himself or herself and his/her interfaith involvement. Then we summarized the story of the development of URI and described in slight more detail the development of URI presence in the MENA region, the current situation and plans for the future as well as our expectation that the current conference will feed ideas and initiatives to the regional work.


      In the next morning we started our joint study of the conference theme in three sessions, each dedicated to one of the following aspects of revelation in the different faiths: Prophecy and Miracles, Text and History, and Mysticism and Individual Revelation. Each of the sessions started with three short statements (most of them quoted in the second part of this report) from different faith perspectives: by Sr. Karmela Farrugia for the Christian perspective, Dr. Mohamed Mosaad for the Muslim perspective, Dr. Yehuda Stolov for the Jewish perspective and Ms. Siham Halabi for the Druze perspective. The presentations were followed by longer conversations in small groups. These conversations were so vivid that often we had to remind participants that they had to pause as the food was getting cold. Conversations also continued into breaks and free time.


      For the Jumaa prayer the Muslim participants went to the nearby Mosque but, in the lack of a nearby Synagogue, all participants were invited to observe the Jewish prayer for the receiving of Shabbat.


      In the evenings we had more relaxed social interaction among participants. In the first evening we presented a variety of filmed documents that several participants brought to share about their interfaith work and in the second we all went to a restaurant in the neighborhood where we enjoyed the house music as well as danced and sang together.


      The afternoon of the third day was devoted to regional planning for the future, resulting in reaffirming the projects that were proposed last year and hoping that with the coming finalization of the official registration of the regional URI office in Amman – the office will be able to start being active in fundraising for the different projects and realizing them.


      We concluded the conference in a joint visit to the remarkable remains of the Roman city of Jarash . After the visit we fare welled, as usual, with warm hugs and wishes to meet again soon.


      Mohamed Mosaad & Yehuda Stolov, Regional Coordinators; Anas Abbadi, Conference Coordinator




      Presentations' Summaries


      Prophecy and Miracles


      Jewish perspective:


      God always related to the world and this relation keeps the world in existence. Prophecy is the human opening to be aware of God's relation to them. This awareness is extremely enriching and this was the role of prophecy for most of the prophets, more than 1.2 million as the Talmud says. But 48 of them had in their prophecies messages that relate to other people in many generations to come after them and these prophecies were recorded in the Bible.

      Prophecy has many levels – from heavenly voice through the Holy Spirit all the way to the prophecy of Moses. The later was special. It relates to other prophecies as Moses was seeing images coming from a clean mirror versus other prophets seeing images reflected by an unclean mirror. This clarity enabled Moses to be able to understand and communicate not only the general guidance but also its fine details – the Halacha, the Jewish law. While other prophets are strictly forbidden to derive any Halachic implementations from their prophecies, all the Jewish law is derived from Moses' prophecy.

      Until the cessation of prophecy with the destruction of the Temple , prophecy was a widespread phenomena with schools training people to be prophets, according to guidelines quoted in the Talmud, by Maimonides and others.

      In a very similar way: a miracle is the relation of God to the creation that came to the human awareness, usually as a result of its being outside the regular course of nature. However, what we refer to as natural is in real fact also miraculous and is being maintained only by the ongoing profusion coming from God to the world.


      Christian perspective:


      Christian Revelation is: “In His goodness and wisdom, God chose to reveal Himself and to make known to us the hidden purpose of His will (cf. Ephesians 1-9) by which through Christ , the Word made flesh, man has access to the Father through the Holy Spirit and comes to share in the divine nature (cf. Ephes. 2:18, 2 Pet. 1-4). Through this revelation, therefore the invisible God (cf. Col. 1-15; Tim. 1-17) out of the abundance of His love speaks to men as friends (cf. Ex. 33:11; Jn. 15:14-15) and lives among them (cf. Bar. 3:38), so that He may invite and take them into fellowship with Himself.” (Documents of Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution of Devine Revelation (Dei Verbum)

      Prophecy “comprehends three things: prediction, singing by the dictate of the Spirit; and understanding and explaining the mysterious, hidden sense of Scripture, by an immediate illumination and motion of the Spirit”. From Smith’s Bible dictionary.

      Miracles in the New Testament (setting aside those worked by Christ himself) appear to have been worked by a power conferred upon particular persons according to a regular law, in virtue of which that power was ordinarily transmitted from one person to another, and the only persons privileged thus to transmit that power were the Apostles through the laying of hands (adapted from Smith’s Bible dictionary).

      Miracles are considered extraordinary gifts. They are intended for the common good of the Church. They are at the service of charity, which builds up the Church.



      Text and History


      Jewish perspective:


      The primary revelation was the receiving of the Torah in Mount Sinai . In this event the whole of the Israelite Nation heard the first two of the Ten Commandments coming from God and then Moses spent forty nights and days getting the rest. The rest being the other eight commandments, that were also carved in the Two Tablets, the whole of the "Written Torah", that was recorded in the Five Books of Moses, and the "Oral Torah" – the interpretation that is essential in order to translate the commands of the Torah to everyday life. For many centuries the Oral Torah was kept oral and was not written but passed orally from one generation to the next, and in this way being at the same time completely loyal to the tradition and adjusting it to the changing reality. However, with time generations became less and less competent and the danger arose that parts the Torah could be forgotten. As a result the Rabbis took the tough decision to put on writing the Oral Torah – first in the dense form of the Mishna and later in the more elaborated form of the Talmud. Now we have whole libraries of Torah books, reflecting the Torah that was revealed to the whole nation and to Moses in particular in Sinai, as it was understood by specific Rabbis with God's inspiration.

      The Torah is meant to be realized in everyday life of the individual as well as the nation, in order to help the world return closer to God. Humans have to do their best to support the Divine plan and one aspect of history reflects their success in doing so. At the same time, another aspect of history reflects the way in which God arranges all human deeds, even those that are wrong, in a way that contributes to the fulfillment of the Divine plan. In that way history reflects both the Divine will and the level of human alliance with that will.



      Mysticism and individual revelation

      Christian perspective:


      Christian theology distinguishes between reason and grace (hesed).  It teaches that special souls are accorded a special grace through which they can feel God's intimate presence.  The human being contemplates the Divine essence with ineffable joy, grasping the reality that subsists beyond the material world. This is an all-pervasive, uncreated reality, which transcends the scope of human reason.  One can approach this reality through humility and surrender, but one is also dependent on a parallel movement from God who approaches the individual through grace.

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