Remarkable success for the interfaith seminar on "The Humanity of the Other", 3-5 October 2002
- "The Humanity of the Other"
For the first time in two years, an Israeli organzation - the
Interfaith Encounter Association - and a Palestinian orgnization - the
Nablus Youth Federation - organized in the Holy Land a joint conference
that was open to the wide public. The conference took place at Tantur
Center in Jerusalem and was funded by the European Commission.We were men
and women, secular and religious, Jews, Christians, Muslims and even one
visiting Native American, from across Israel and the PNA.
For many of us, in both groups, it was the first time to meet 'the other'
and the doubts where there whether there is the will in the other side to
really meet. It was clear from the start that we do not have the
responsibility here to solve the Israeli-palestinian conflict, but we do
indeed have the responsibility to develop human peace among us, the group
of the conference paticipants, and that in order for that to happen,
especially when the range of political views was wide in both groups, we
have to concentrate on the religious perspective of our discussions.
And we started on that track right away. After a short personal
introduction in the plenary, participants set in small mixed groups for an
informal exchange, over tea and coffee, about their relations to their
religious traditions and other issues, followed by joint listening to
During the conference we heard a Rabbi from west-Jerusalem, a Christian
scholar from the Old City and an Imam from East jerusalem. All three
portrayed their respective religious views about the humanity of members
of other faiths, especially the Abrahamic faiths, and the need to manifest
that humanity in our relations with 'the other'. It was interesting that
both the Rabbi and the Imam mentioned the story of Kain and Ebel as the
example for the wrong way to deal with differences and stressed the need
to overcome the tendency to follow that way, and develop an alternative
conversational way. After each of the presentations, we split into
discussion groups of 12 and shared with each other our reflections about
the presentation and other issues deriving.
Especially moving were the Muslim Jumaa prayer of Friday and the Jewish
prayer for the beginning of Shabbat - to both all other participants were
invited and many accepted. Muslims, Jews and Christians set together
witnesing, learning and respecting each other's prayers. Eqauly
special was the session on Friday night in which all participants shared
and taught each other songs from the different traditions.
We felt so well about our micro-cosmos of human peace that we built in our
group when the news came about clashes in Nablus itself. We then realized
even more the importance of what we are doing together, as these 'news'
were repeating what we constantly hear for the past two years, while what
we started to build together is the really new alternative. After the
participants from Nablus made sure their families were not heart, we
continued to conclude the conference. Nearly all participants, from both
groups, expressed their excitement about the process we went through, the
transformation it brought to us and the need to take it further to more
people and more depth. During the concluding session we received a phone
call from the Mayor of Nablus, congretulating us for the conference and
its success, encouraging all of us with special emphasis on the
Palestinian participants to continue in this way and stressing that what
we do together is the paradigm of what needs to happen - that the Israeli
and Palestinian PEOPLE will join forces to build together human peace that
will replace the visious circle of violence that the leaderships do not
succeed to stop.
As a collective we concluded that we are committed to continue the process
and wish to meet again as soon as possible, with the aim to have our next
joint conference in the comming January. We then fairwelled with warm
hand-shakes and with huggs.
(* This document has been produced with the financial assisttance of the
European Community. The views expressed herein are those of The Interfaith
Encounter Association and can therefore in no way be taken to reflect the
official opinion of the European commission.)
The Interfaith Encounter Association
P.O.Box 3814, Jerusalem 91037, Israel
Yehuda Stolov, Director
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