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“Whether we are Jews, Christians or Muslims, we all need to take responsibility for the poor among us.”

August 7, 2012 21:42
2 minute read.
Interfaith (Illustration)

Jew, Muslim, Wall (R370). (photo credit: REUTERS)

Rabbis, kadis and priests were all in attendance at a special seminar in Jerusalem Tuesday night hosted by the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel to discuss the notion of social justice and charity within the three monotheistic faiths.

The symposium was held in the early evening, followed after sunset by an iftar meal to break the day’s Ramadan fast, which Muslims in Israel and around the world are currently observing.

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Muhammad Abu Obeid, the kadi (Islamic judge) of the Israeli-Arab town of Baqa al- Gharbiyye near Haifa, gave the evening’s central address and spoke about the importance Islam places on societal equality and fairness.

“Justice means equalizing all aspects of society so that all people have the same duties and rights, where no one is discriminated against and where there is equal opportunity for everyone to advance in society,” Abu Obeid said.

“The Koran prescribes justice for all members of society, including if one rules over others.”

Tuesday’s event was the third annual iftar event that the ICCI, a coexistence organization, has staged. In cooperation with the Konrad Adenaur Institute, it was attended by religious leaders of several different faiths and denominations.

The obligation in Islam of giving charity is especially emphasized during Ramadan, and zakat, or alms-giving, is one of the five pillars of Islam.

Rabbi Ron Kronish, director of the ICCI, said that the event “demonstrates that interreligious coexistence is possible in Israel.” Responding to Abu Obeid’s comments, Rabbi Ronen Lubitz of the religious moshav Nir Etzion in the North noted the “striking parallels” between Islam and Judaism regarding the centrality of charity and justice in both faiths.

Lubitz also explained that in Jewish thought, charity is the joint work of humanity and God, in that the world was created in an imperfect state and that it is the work of man to perfect it.

The rabbi pointed to numerous biblical references, especially among the words of the Hebrew prophets such as Isaiah, who said that the Jewish people would only be redeemed when charity and justice are done throughout society.

Concluding the lineup of speakers was Pastor Fuad Dagher of Shfaram, who described the detailed laws and precepts of Judaism and Islam regarding the obligations of charity as “works of art,” while emphasizing the spiritual nature of charity in Christian practice.

“Whether we are Jews, Christians or Muslims, we all need to take responsibility for the poor among us,” said Dagher. “We must live up to the demands which God makes of us towards the less fortunate and in so doing make the world we live in, where we all live amongst each other, a better place to be.”

Sheikh Hilmi Hamad from Ilot near Nazareth then recited the elaborate prayers that conclude the fast, after which the assembled religious leaders and conference attendees broke bread together.

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