International Connections, May – July 2005

By Dr. Yehuda Stolov, Director of The Interfaith Encounter Association

 

 

As you probably know, the Interfaith Encounter Association (IEA) has many on-going connections to the international interfaith scene (you can see in www.interfaith-encounter.org/activities.htm our current affiliations).

In the last few months we were involved in several events and we thought it would be interesting for you if we briefly share them with you:

 

May 2005: Project “Towards the creation of a spiritual forum for world peace at the United Nations

 

The project is aimed towards the creation of a spiritual forum for world peace at the United Nations, which would help to mobilize the immense spiritual, human and organizational resources of the religious communities, spiritual traditions, organizations and movements, interfaith organizations and value-based secular groups, in partnership with the United Nations and other constituencies of the civil society, in the pursuit of a more peaceful and equitable world.

The project was endorsed by the Interfaith Encounter Association and its Executive Director, Dr. Yehuda Stolov serves on the project's Partnership Committee that met in Switzerland in May for the second time.

 

 

"Critical Moment in Interreligious Dialogue" – World Council of Churches conference, 7-9 June, Geneva, Switzerland

 

The conference, convened by the Geneva-based World Council of Churches, 7-9 June 2005, outlined specific strategies which aim to shift the emphasis of inter-religious relations from dialogue to common action, including new education and training programs and exchanges which foster a culture of dialogue.
Symbolic actions which promote healing of historical memory, new structures and networks, and action plans at the national and regional levels were upheld as practical ways to follow up.
Participants expressed caution about understandings of dialogue that diminish particular identities and traditions, and that generate suspicion and hostility to dialogue within religious communities.
 

The IEA was represented in the conference by its Executive Director, Dr. Yehuda Stolov who also facilitated one of the plenary sessions. The conference provided many opportunities for meeting with colleagues from the Middle East and around the globe. Especially moving were the meetings with our colleagues from Egypt, Iran and Kuwait.

For more on the conference and for photos, see the conference's site at: www.oikoumene.org/interreligious.html

 

 

ALLMEP conference, 29-30 June 2005, Washington D.C., USA

 

A remarkable and exciting event occurred on Capitol Hill as a new effort to support Arab-Jewish co-existence was born. More than 250 religious, political, business and student leaders from every political and religious background came together to launch the Alliance for Middle East Peace. ALLMEP (ALLiance for Middle East Peace - www.allmep.org ) is a coalition of 27 non-governmental organizations, including the Interfaith Encounter Association, that build bridges every day between Arabs and Jews in the Middle East. Through ALLMEP, these NGOs have joined together to engage all of us in supporting Middle East co-existence programs.

While we may all differ on political peace efforts, which focus on where to draw borders and how to ensure security, people-to-people co-existence efforts focus on something we can all enthusiastically support: building relationships between human beings. Every day, these programs bring ordinary Palestinians and Israelis together to learn, work, play and talk.

These activities engage individuals first, but their impact quickly ripples outward. Each participant of interfaith study groups, each young athlete in a joint soccer league, each patient in a cooperative medical program becomes a grass-roots diplomat, quietly spreading the message to family, friends and community that civil relations are possible and rewarding. These organizations need volunteers, supporters, advocates, program participants and, yes, financial support. Most work miracles with modest budgets but are forced to turn away Arabs and Jews who are looking for a way to reach out across conflict lines. Through ALLMEP, they are working to raise awareness about their little-known but much-needed work.

The IEA was wonderfully represented in this founding conference by the Director of its New York branch, Dr. Shams Prinzivalli.

 

 

Annual meeting of the Global Council and staff of the United Religions Initiative (URI),29 June-1 July,  Seoul, South Korea

 

Seventy members of  2005 and 2008 Global Councils of URI ( www.uri.org ), Global Staff and special guests have been privileged to share here a week of spirit-filled work, profound solidarity with a nation yearning for peaceful reunification, gratitude and celebration. We journeyed to Korea from 23 countries, as members of over 20 religions, spiritual expressions and indigenous traditions. During this week we made the transition from URI’s first Global Council to our second; Trustees and staff in eight regions engaged in successful teambuilding and planning for URI’s future development; we made a peace pilgrimage in solidarity with our Korean hosts to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that divides Korea and much more.

As you know, the IEA is a Multiple Cooperation Circle of the URI – with its seven CCs. IEA was represented in the meeting by its Chair Mr. Shlomo Alon, who together with his colleagues Mrs. Atefeh Sadeghi from Iran and Ms. Hanan Shahatit from Jordan, serves as the Middle East and North Africa Region Global Trustees in the 2008 Global Council; and by its Executive Director Dr. Yehuda Stolov, who together with his colleague Dr. Mohamed Mosaad from Egypt serve as the Regional Coordinators of the MENA region and served on the 2005 Global Council. Also present was IEA's women's co-coordinator Ms. Elana Rozenman who serves as one of the Multiregional Region Global Trustees.

 

 

"Recognising our Neighbours – Religious Tolerance in Shared Societies" – Europe and Middle East conference of the International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF – www.iarf.net ), 21-24 July 2005, Cluj-Napoca, Romania

 

This conference aimed to work together on the challenge to develop a tolerant and non-discriminatory society. It was designed as pan-European and broader in order to help compare and develop strategies for harmony and cooperation within multi-religious and shared societies. The Middle East dimension presents an opportunity for wider exposure to a multi-faith environment under stress. It is also hoped that IARF Chapters and member groups, as well as others interested in our field of work, will be inspired to develop meaningful programs in their own areas.

The IEA, which is a Member Group of IARF, was represented with a relatively large delegation that included its Chair and co-coordinator of our Arabic Interfaith Encounter Mr. Shlomo Alon, the co-coordinator of our Eilat Interfaith Encounter Ms. Mazal Katzir, the two coordinators of IEA's Students' Enviromental Group Ms. Rasha Abu Arshid and Ms. Noa Milikowsky, the co-coordinator of our Jerusalem Youth Interfaith Encounter Mr. Dotan Arad and the the co-coordinator of our Tel Aviv Youth Interfaith Encounter Mr. Shabi Elashvili. Shabi's and Dotan's colleagues to the coordinating teams were also invited but unfortunately were not able to join.

One example of IEA sharing was the story of Dotan, who comes from a very right-wing social context. He described how he first came to IEA, how he suffered criticism and ridicule, how his mother was wounded and his good friend was murdered in terrorist-attacks and how these events weakened him in his work, as he was feeling that he looses his ability to get his family and friends to listen to his ideas. On the other hand there were also successes. For example: when he was asked to find a rabbinical figure for a study day the IEA organized for school principles, he approach many rabbis and finally managed to convince Rabbi Bigman of the Maale Hagilboa Yeshiva to come. He was deeply impressed by the talk of his colleague in the panel Sheikh Kiwan, the Imam of Majd el Krum, and a strong connection was instantly formed between them. Today there is a permanent program for interfaith dialogue in the Yeshiva and who knows if it is not a result of this study day. The Talmud tells the story of Honi Hame'agel who saw an old man planting a Carob tree that gives fruits after seventy years. He asked him: do you expect to live to eat the fruits of this tree?! The old man replied: when I was born I found carob trees in the world – as my grand-parents planted for me I plant for my grandchildren. I don't know if we will see full harmonic peace in the Middle East in our time but the work of IEA is the real and essential planting of the seeds for the future generations.

 

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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:

  Mr. Shlomo Alon, Chair

  Sr. Karmela Farrugia, Vice-Chair

  Sheikh Muhammad Kiwan, Vice-Chair

  Sheikh Ali Birani

  Rabbi Dov Maimon

  Deacon Eng. Jirias Mansour

  Sheikh Tawfiq Salama

 

Dr. Yehuda Stolov, Director

E-mail: yehuda@interfaith-encounter.org

 

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