Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, January/February 2012, Page 50

Waging Peace

Building Interfaith Peace

alt(L-r) Rabbi Arthur Blecher, Imam Yahya Hendi and Rev. Fahed Abu Akel address the current status of Christians in Palestine and Jordan. (Photo Michael Keating)

Featuring representatives of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the Oct. 29 "Peace Building/Interfaith Voices of Peace" panel at the HCEF conference addressed the need for building peace and understanding among the Abrahamic faiths. Claudette Habesch, secretary-general of CARITAS Jerusalem, moderated the discussion.

Rev. Dr. Fahed Abu Akel, executive director of Atlanta Ministry with International Students (AMIS), and pastor of Peachtree Presbyterian Church, began by lamenting the fact that many Americans fail to recognize the Holy Land's religious diversity, mistakenly believing that all Arabs are Muslims. "Palestinian Christians do not exist in the minds of the American people," said Abu-Akel, who served as Moderator of the 2.5-member Presbyterian Church USA in 2002-2003, the first Palestinian to lead a major American denomination. Akel concluded his remarks by urging the U.S. to exercise tough love with its Israeli ally, pointing out that "if you have a brother who is a drunk, you do not give him money and alcohol."

Rabbi Arthur Blecher of Beth Chai, The Greater Washington Jewish Humanist Congregation, emphasized that global acceptance and universal peace are the two preconditions necessary to achieve world peace. Furthermore, the rabbi stated, it is everyone's responsibility to make choices that advance universal cooperation.

"We are called the children of Abraham because we have yet to grow up," quipped Imam Yahya Hendi, the Muslim chaplain at Georgetown University, the first U.S. university to hire a full-time Muslim chaplain. Criticizing the Abrahamic faiths for their inability to achieve interfaith peace, Imam Hendi said that all faiths must embrace "the spirit of bridge building" and "reclaim the spirit of love." In order to achieve greater peace, he stressed, it is essential for all people to "master the art of listening to one another." Emphasizing that engaging in conversation is not simply enough, Hendi stated that individuals "need not only to speak, but to act."

Dale Sprusansky