Day 9 - Interfaith

Day 9 Three Faiths: Conflicts within and among the Faiths

Waking up this morning in Jerusalem just yards from the wall of the Old City, at the break of dawn, I could hear the gentle chanting of the Muslim prayer.  I am told that the prayer at dawn includes the phrases "Glory be to God, The Great" and "God responds to those who praise Him."    Observant Muslims turn toward Mecca to pray five times each day. That serves to frame the day in prayer and is a constant reminder that God is Great and that life itself is God's gift.   One cannot be in Jerusalem for very long without encountering the practices of prayer by observant Christians, Jews and Muslims.  
 
On a bus, an elderly Orthodox Rabbi was reading from text that appeared to a prayer book.  In a restaurant last night, an Orthodox Christian priest chanted prayer with some of his faithful before ameal.  In this city prayers of the faithful can be observed throughout the day.  Yet, despite many prayers for peace and unity, there are some in each faith community who make exclusive claims on God, on  land, and on political power over the land.  None of the faith communities are without their fundamentalists/extremists.   
 
Unfortunately, all too frequently prayerful images of the Holy Land are overtaken by conflict, especially by those who want to impose the dominion of their religion over others—whether it be the extreme Israeli Sephardic-based political party Shas, the Palestinian extreme Islamic political party Hamas, or Christian Zionists who zealously promote Israel not for its own sake but as part of their particular plan to usher in the second coming of Christ.  From such zealous religious groups, conflict rises as they seek to impose their views.
 
As we begin our visit to Israel-Palestine, we are reminded of both the promise of interfaith relations as well as the conflicts that occur as a result of religious zealotry. Just last week there were violent clashes at the Temple Mount, a section of the Old City of Jerusalem with sacred claims of both Muslims and Jews.     Muslim worshippers hurled stones during protests after Israel right-wing leaders called on Jews to visit the Temple Mount andcleanse the area of Muslims.  
 
Tensions are very real here among Jews, Christians, and Muslims, fueled by suspicions that go beyond questions of religious practice.  But to paraphrase an old saying, religion "can be part of the solution or a major source of the problem".  This week we will share some stories both of the roots of conflict and of Interfaith work that is making a difference.