By Christopher E. Miller
28 October 2015
Imagine a Holy Land where all the major Abrahamic Faiths cooperated with each other respectfully and regularly held joint meetings and celebrations. What would it look like if the faiths honored their storied histories and intertwined prophetic traditions, joining forces to work for the betterment of all in the Holy Land?
This is what the “Abrahamic Reunion” (AR) is working towards, a microcosm of what could be if the Holy Land would be what it should be—dedicated to its holiness rather than fixated on its distinctions.
The founding principles of the AR reflect this, as they aim to share the belief in one God by understanding each other’s religious customs, spiritual practices, prayers and values, turn all religions into a force for people and to respond to the needs in the Holy Land by establishing ongoing projects that embody our ideals, to name a few.
It is understandable that all sides have great reasons to not trust, cooperate or extend friendship to each other; there are great wounds on all sides. Yet, there are greater reasons still in the common bond of faiths amongst all these religions springing from the tents of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar.
It was from these and the prophetic visions of Abraham that the great monotheistic religions of the Middle East were born. Did not Jesus say in the parable of the Good Samaritan to treat all with neighborly charity and kindness? Did not Mohammed live side by side with Jews, and is it not written in the Qur’an “To you be your religion, to me be mine.” (109:6)? Does not the Torah say “Love your neighbor as yourself” in Leviticus?
Since its foundation in 2004, the AR has relentlessly brought together Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Druze religious leaders—men and women—to eat, walk and pray in friendship and peace. The AR brings a vision of harmony into the Holy Land that is a great hope for all those who see it when responding to violence with affirmations of support, unity and friendship. They remind faiths that coexistence is not only possible, but also fruitful.
Following the 2014 Gaza War, the AR led a multi-faith peace walk through Nazareth shortly after it had faced riots. They gathered around a synagogue in the primarily Arab town of Shefar’am, which had been hit with a Molotov cocktail, to gather in prayers from all the faiths to affirm its place in the city. The AR also signed a declaration of religious tolerance:
Signed November 30th at the House of Hope, Shfar’am:
“The Abrahamic Reunion, a group of spiritual leaders–Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Druze–have been working together for 10 years promoting inter-religious harmony in the Holy Land.
We are women and men of the faiths of this land – our land – who meet together, walk together, eat together, and pray side by side in mutual respect. We demonstrate by our personal example that we can live together in peace and cooperation.
At this difficult time, we want to reaffirm to the public our heartfelt conviction, that (within) our religions are the pathways of love and peace.
We condemn the violence, hatred, racism, and suffering being inflicted upon our communities in the name of religion. We believe and we teach that the holy places of all the religions in the Holy Land must be respected, and not defaced in any way, for any reason.
We are the Children of Adam and Eve, the Children of Abraham. To our regret, recently we have forgotten that we are from the same family. Arabs and Jews…let us remember that we are one family.”
More often than not, the media emphasises the voices of defamation, religious violence, and separation, and the Holy Land is very self-segregated, with walls, checkpoints and villages each holding to their own faith. It is necessary to bring down the walls of stereotype and false perception, and there are many people working towards this who wish for peace amongst the religions of the Holy Land. This is demonstrated by the composition of the AR. It is led by peacemakers from all over the world. Each event held by the AR gathers over 100 people to study each others’ texts, visit other religion’s holy places and meet other religions’ leaders. For many who attend it, it is their first encounter of other religions’ holy words, often being surprised to find out how much in common each scripture has.
Elias Jabbour, a founding AR member, is fond of saying – “Give me the price of one fighter jet for the cause of peace!” Despite the political and secular peacemaking processes stalling, the AR continues to build bridges for a religious peacemaking movement.