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Sites and Insights: Where history meets scripture.(Photo by: BiblePlaces.com)
Those who are commanded to peace should actively pursue it
By DAVID A. DANGOOR
06/03/2019
There are few other concepts that receive so much attention in the central scriptures of Judaism, Christianity and Islam than the pursuit of peace.
‘Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble,” reads Psalm 119:165 of the Hebrew Bible, also revered by Christians. The Quran states that “Allah guides those who pursue His pleasure to the ways of peace” in Surah Al-Ma’idah [5:16].
 
Both of these, and many other statements in the holy texts of the three great monotheistic religions, provide a simple concept that those who believe in God must pursue peace as a holy commandment.
 
There are few other concepts that receive so much attention in the central scriptures of Judaism, Christianity and Islam than the pursuit of peace. How it should be pursued, what are its central themes and even detailed laws about how to conduct peace are replete in our holy texts.
 
However, when many people around the world look at the Israel-Palestinian conflict, they assume that religion is an obstacle rather than a potential bridge to peace. They point to religious extremists who sometimes use their pulpits to do the exact opposite of what they are supposed to preach, instead inciting toward war, bloodshed and conflict.
 
Nevertheless, in searching for a solution to this seemingly intractable conflict, it would be best to start from a foundation of what unites the sides in the conflict rather than divides them.
 
If a Jew or Christian were to study the Quran and a Muslim the Bible, they would see many familiar ideas and texts. This can become the starting point for a new conversation.
 
In a few weeks, US President Donald Trump and his team will begin to unveil a long-awaited peace plan that it is hoped will end the long-standing Israel-Palestinian conflict.
 
THE KEY to peace, however, will not necessarily be found in the negotiations between leaders or the black and white of any potential agreement or program, but in the hearts and minds of the people in the region who will be left to live side by side long after the peace conferences and negotiations have ended.
 
What is clear is that the overwhelming majority of both Arabs and Jews in the Holy Land believe in God and in the basic tenets of their religions. These religions and their basic foundational texts can and should be a source for goodness and peace, not enmity and conflict.
 
Of course, this is easier said than done, and the idea of utilizing religion and religious leaders for peace is not original.
However, these attempts were usually at lower levels, in small gatherings, which occasionally tried to bend over backwards to avoid dealing with some of the central themes of the conflict.
 
If we engage the highest levels of the religious leadership in the region – those that have a following and are highly respected – and ensure a strong, honest and peaceful dialogue between them, this could have strong and persuasive power in drawing people towards peace.
 
It must be incentivized by the secular and political leaders, and should be open and even online for people to watch. It can begin with a set of unifying principles, and start with the theoretical and move on the practical when common ground has been created.
 
FOR MANY years, at the Sir Dr. Naim Dangoor Program for Universal Monotheism at Bar-Ilan University, we have been cultivating real peace and understanding through truth, ethics and action of the broad common ground shared by the major monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. 
 
We have seen that the kernel for peace can be formed and nurtured among our religions. We believe it is possible because we have witnessed it in our programs.
 
We are also happy to use our knowledge and experience to create a platform for a wider program that could bolster and buttress any peace plan and try and ensure that it receives the support of those who are rightly commanded to seek peace. 
Peace, after all, is built between peoples – and with divergent and frequently opposing narratives, history and politics, religion is a place, where, when compressed down to its most basic principles, will be instantly familiar to opponents across the divide of the conflict.
 
While some might be cynical about such a proposition, we have witnessed the power of religious conversation to break down barriers and form the building blocks of peaceful exchange and dialogue toward understanding.
 
All Muslims, Christians and Jews yearn for peace, and we each have our own understanding that our desired future includes a vision of harmony and an end to war and conflict. Perhaps we can all in our own way take practical steps to reach this shared vision, and not wait for further heavenly instruction.
 
The Almighty has already told us that we should be drawn to peace and seek it – now, we just have to follow the instructions laid out for us and make the prophetic future our tomorrow.

The writer is a businessman and philanthropist, and head of the Exilarch Foundation, which established and funds the Sir Dr. Naim Dangoor Program for Universal Monotheism at Bar-Ilan University.
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