Jewish and Muslim leaders call for end to violence and incitement

“In the name of God, we, people of the Holy Land and leaders of its religious communities are gathered to take upon ourselves to relentlessly seek peace in the Land,” declared the religious leaders.

November 17, 2016 19:59
4 minute read.
Chief Rabbi, head of southern Islamic Movement, senior Palestinian clerics, in ‘historic’ call for e

A group of leading religious figures from the Jewish and Muslim communities in the region concluded met a summit in Spain. (photo credit: MEDIA DEPARTMENT OF THE SPANISH MINISTRY OF FOREIG)

At a time of extreme religious and political tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, a group of leading religious figures from the Jewish and Muslim communities in the region met at a summit in Spain on Thursday and issued a joint denunciation of violence and incitement.

Chief Rabbi David Lau and several other senior Israeli rabbis signed the declaration together with Sheikh Raed Badir – a leading Islamic Legal (Shari’a) scholar and member of the Palestinian Ulama Council; Sheikh Hamad Abu Daabes – head of the Southern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel; Dr. Maher Khuder – an Islamic court judge in the Gaza Strip and lecturer in Islamic Studies; and Sheikh Imad Falouji, one of the founders of the Izzadin Kassam armed wing of Hamas who now serves as the chairman of the Adam Center for Dialogue of Civilizations in Gaza, among others.

The meeting and declaration were the fruition of many months work by former government minister and coexistence activist Rabbi Michael Melchior, who was also a signatory to the document and who heads the Mosaica Center, a coexistence organization, and the Religious Peace Initiative.

Ramat Gan Rabbi Chief Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, Rabbi Ratzon Arusi – a member of the Council of the Chief Rabbinate, and three senior Christian clerics were also signatories to the declaration.

“In the name of God, we, people of the Holy Land and leaders of its religious communities, are gathered to take upon ourselves to relentlessly seek peace in the Land,” declared the religious leaders.

“We emphasize that our two peoples are responsible for their common fate, that the three religions are responsible for creating peaceful existence, and that we as religious leaders are responsible for promoting a life of mutual respect based upon justice and safety, in the spirit of the word of God as conveyed by His prophets.”

The declaration focused on the sanctity of life and a disavowal of violence in general, especially that conducted in the name of God.

“The violence that is conducted, supposedly in the name of God, is a desecration of His name, a crime against those who are created in His image, and a debasement of faith.

The proper means of solving conflict and disagreement is by negotiation and deliberation only.”

The leaders called for “the cessation of incitement, misrepresentation and distortion of the image of the other and of the neighbor,” and committed to “educate[ing] future generations to uphold mutual respect.”

The clerics also called for a solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict “that recognizes the right of the two peoples to exist with dignity,” and called on Israeli and Palestinian political leadership to work toward a solution.

A standing committee was established to implement the declaration.

The goal of the summit was to work toward a situation in which religion is no longer an obstacle to peace and reconciliation. The religious leaders therefore committed to mobilizing the thousands of students and young people who follow them to do the same.

The other religious leaders signatory to the declaration are Dr.

Izzat Jaradat – secretary–general of the World Muslim Conference for Jerusalem of the Union of Islamic States; Prof. Fakher Abu Awad – a former member of the Shura Council of Hamas and a researcher of political Islam; Dr. Mahmoud al-Habash – head of the religious justice system of the Palestinian Authority; the Melchite Archbishop George Bakuni; the Latin Bishop of Jerusalem William Shomali; the Lutheran Bishop Munib Younan; and the Greek-Orthodox Metropolitan Timotheos Margaritis.

The summit was initiated and organized by the Adam Center for Dialogue of Civilizations and the Mosaica Religious Peace Initiative and was hosted by the Spanish government.

The many months of preparation work for the summit required numerous closed-door meetings, in order to build confidence between the various leaders, Melchior told The Jerusalem Post.

Melchior said that the Palestinian and Israeli Muslim leaders were significant religious figures with hundreds of thousands of followers, and that the Palestinian ones represent numerous sectors of their society that have backed this process of religious reconciliation.

“It was very important to hear all the Muslim leaders loud and clear say what they think about violence and incitement, but we all have to talk about how to educate, but this was no doubt of very great significance,” he said.

There were also other Palestinian religious leaders who had also agreed to sign the declaration but who were not permitted to travel due to security considerations.

“This is a very important and historic first step,” said Melchior.

“Obviously, the first time you get people to together there is skepticism, but the fact that we could agree on a text together is a great achievement.

“It gives a lot of hope for the future, because this will create the paradigm shift where religion will no longer be an obstacle but can help make peace.”

Melchior said that previous peace-making efforts have excluded religion from the process, an approach which “is doomed to fail” since religion is such an important aspect of people’s lives in the region.

“The attempt to make peace as a secular process failed miserably, and there’s now a lot of hope over what happened in these recent days,” he said.

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