Day 10 - Interfaith

Day 10: Interfaith The Role of Religious Leaders in Creating the Conditions for Peace (or not)

One of the dynamics in the role of religion in Israel and Palestine today is the relationship between religion and state.   Unlike the U.S., where church and state are structurally separated, in both Israel and Palestine there are structural links between religion and state.   While in each religious community there are leaders critical of government, at the same time there are major religious leaders on both sides appointed by the state.  The office of the Chief Rabbi is state supported.  Though the Palestinian Authority is secular, the Chief Sheik of the Sharia Courts (Islamic Courts) is appointed by the Palestinian President.  

Recognizing that the official religious institutions of the Holy Land play a potentially critical role either in exacerbating conflict or in building understanding, religious leaders in 2005 established the Council of Religious institutions of the Holy Land. 

Through this council, the leaders of the three faiths in the Holy Land meet regularly to build greater understanding:

"As religious leaders of different faiths, who share the conviction in the one Creator, Lord of the Universe; we believe that the essence of religion is to worship G-d and respect the life and dignity of all human beings, regardless of religion, nationality and gender.

We accordingly commit ourselves to use our positions and good offices, to advance these sacred values, to prevent religion from being used as a source of conflict, and to promote mutual respect, a just and comprehensive peace and reconciliation between people of all faiths in the Holy Land and worldwide."

Working tirelessly to facilitate this official dialogue of religious leaders has been Canon Trond Bekkavig of the Norwegian Church.  Here is a brief video clip of his description of the challenge:   

On Feb. 26-29, leaders of the Council traveled together to Washington DC, along with the ministers of Religious Affairs for both Israel and Palestine.  As they met with US government leaders as well as with religious groups, here is the encouraging statement they issued: