|Muslims and Christians protecting each other in Egypt during recent reprisals
against coptic Christians by extremists.
Franciscan priests and archaeologists Virgilio C. Corbo and Stanislao Loffreda worked at Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee from 1968 to 1991 and discovered that in the early Islamic period of the 7th and 8th centuries, not only did Jews, Christians and Muslims get along with each other, they actually helped each other. Excavations in the church over the home of St. Peter unearthed mosaic tiles which gave specific instructions for the sharing of goods with Jewish and Muslim neighbors.
The Middle East stands at the crossroads of creating a humanitarian cataclysm or a just and lasting peace. With all the horrific pitfalls of military retaliation and the quagmires of political resolutions it’s time to explore an alternative course of action to solve the seemingly endless enmity and insurmountable problems between two societies whose heritage can be traced back to a common origin. Interfaith Dialogue may prove to be a starting point for bringing people together rather than keeping them apart.
Monotheism was born in the Middles East. Jews, Christians and Muslims all call Abraham “father.” As members of the same extended faith family it’s about time these religions came together to forge a new path to peace, a peace which all three faiths foster.
The principles of Interfaith Dialogue are:
1) Recognition of the other’s beliefs and claim to truth as they see it and experience it.
2) Appreciation of differences while emphasizing commonalities.
3) Respectful engagement and interaction.
4) Acknowledgement of shared principles, values, goals and aspirations.
5) Desire to work together for the common good and benefit of all in justice and peace.
The Conference of Major Superiors of Men endorses a just, peaceful and lasting solution in the Middle East, which ends the occupation and promotes deep social reconciliation.The Xaverian Missionaries have worked in Interfaith Dialogue since their inception at the turn of the 20th Century and can attest to its efficacy.
On a macro level a faith summit in Jerusalem, considered sacred to all three Abrahamic beliefs, could be convened to bring religious and lay leaders and delegates from the Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities together in an atmosphere of mutual regard and acceptance. These men and women could engage each other in respectful discourse and the interchange of ideas without the road blocks of political posturing and socio-economic hurdles. No inflammatory propaganda and no hate-speech would be tolerated; no recrimination or retaliation; no provisos or reprisals. There would be an attempt at mutual understanding of the fears and hopes of their respective communities, and compassionate resolve to address their needs and concerns.
On a micro level, there could be interfaith outreach and dialogue meetings and chapters in synagogues, churches and mosques across the ‘Holy Land’ where people could get to know each other as neighbors and perhaps even friends who depend upon each other for their livelihoods and well-being, rather than adversaries and enemies bent upon mutual annihilation.
Those participating would be united in their effort to create a sustained path toward justice and peace. Their progress and outcomes could have a major impact on secular society and prove that given the right atmosphere and circumstances people can find solutions.
It has been done before albeit over a millennium ago. It can be done again. It must be done for the sake of humanity! A better world is possible. Peace in the Middle East can be achieved if we take the first steps back in the right direction set forth in the streets of Capernaum so long ago. Interfaith Dialogue can lead the way.