Muslim-Jewish Dialogue: Jerusalem-Hebron Religious Leaders Forum
The project is co-coordinated and co-sponsored by the International Association for Religious Freedom and the Interfaith Encounter Association, one of its Middle Eastern member groups. The IARF, established at the beginning of the 20th century by Unitarians and European Free Christians, has since developed into a truly interfaith platform of exchange and collaboration between religious liberals of different faiths, represented at the UN and involved in a variety of projects in such diverse regions as Japan, Pakistan, India, Kenya, the Middle East, Europe and North America. These projects focus on interfaith dialogue and peace building initiatives, both local and intercontinental (such as our quadrennial Congresses), as well as human rights education and advocacy at national and international levels.
We are particularly proud of and excited about this cooperation with the Interfaith Encounter Association, our long-standing member in the Middle East. We have been greatly impressed by the passion and dedication of the local volunteers and have been supporting them as best we could since 2011. Still, their dreams and the needs in the region are far greater than our means, especially now that they lost an important funding source from the US when the Trump Administration terminated support of any such groups, which they previously enjoyed through a number of programmes.
Please consider supporting us in our strife to counter hostility and ignorance. You may read about the project below, at our website (iarf.net/projects/israel) and at the website of the IEA (interfaith-encounter.org).
The purpose of the Jerusalem-Hebron Religious Leaders Forum is to create a uniquely effective path toward harmonious co-existence. The main Forum continuously recruits leading community religious leaders (Rabbis of synagogues and villages, heads and teachers in Yeshivot, Imams in mosques, community Sheikhs and others).
Currently the Forum consists of several Heads and teachers of Yeshivot, Chief Rabbi of the town of Efrat and several Salafi Sheikhs from Hebron and Yata. They are consistently exposed to each other’s teachings and practices through regular encounters of joint study and open conversation, while emphasizing mutual respect and sincere desire for understanding. The process leads them to get to know each other better and better, gain more knowledge about the religion of the other, and through that – become more respectful of the other and develop strong bonds of friendship and cooperation. Moreover, the process leads them to share their experience with their students, who are the future religious and social leaders of the Holy Land, and encourage them to form their own groups.
Out of the groups already formed, these are currently active: two groups with students of Otniel Yeshiva and young adults from Yata, students of Otniel Yeshiva and young adults from Hussan, and young adults from Jenin and Gilboa. In addition – a group was formed in Hebron and another group of families from Jericho and Jerusalem. Three branches of the Forum are now in the process of formation: a group of religious leaders in the Tel Aviv area, a group of Ultra-Orthodox Jews and religious Muslims and a group of religious leaders in the Galilee. With time, the Forum and students’ groups will develop into a regional forum whose voice is heard by the people who live in the region between Jerusalem and Hebron, and hopefully other parts of the Holy Land. In parallel the forum will work to recruit support from top leaders, who will also visit occasionally the encounters, even if their time will not permit regular participation.
Due to their position as community religious leaders, the ripple effect will be especially significant. They will convey the message of harmonious coexistence in two ways by incorporating it into their regular teachings, and in responding publicly and jointly to occurrences of xenophobia or prejudices.
Working in a region that is no stranger to conflict, we strive to use a grass-roots approach to facilitate lasting social change. The Forum incorporates the knowledge and experience of regional leaders who have lived their lives within the conflict. Participation alone is a powerful signal of the willingness of people of the region to move towards peace. It is also important to note that Jerusalem and Hebron themselves hold deep religious significance for Islam and Judaism. It has been the setting of ancient and recent conflict. It is essential to the future of both communities to work together to create peace since the Israeli-Palestinian conflict not only affects the citizens in the region, but is also used as a rallying point for tensions and even hatred all over the world. The Jerusalem Hebron Religious Leader’s Forum is coordinated by an energetic and resourceful pair, a Rabbi and a Sheikh. Each of the student groups is coordinated by a Jewish-Muslim team. The Forum meets on a consistent basis every 5-10 weeks, totalling 5-10 encounters during the year. The encounters includes 10-20 influential religious leaders of both the Jewish and Islamic faith who reside in the region around Jerusalem and Hebron.
After mutual greetings, each encounter will start with presenting the theme chosen for it from the Jewish and Muslim perspectives. In the second part, participants study the theme in depth for about an hour – in light of the presentations and the religious texts of both religions. The last part, of around 30 minutes (more/less as needed) is dedicated to identifying public issues that need to be jointly addressed and working to address them, and planning the next encounter. A few specific examples of possible joint projects to combat xenophobia are: making public statements, writing joint editorials, newspaper columns, etc. In parallel: the coordinators of the Forum work to invite more community religious leaders to join the Forum and to recruit the support of top religious leaders (such as the Chief Rabbis of Israel, heads of Islamic courts, heads of religious academies, heads of leading families in the region etc.)
You can find more stories and extensive reporting at the website of the IEA.
Abdallah Abu Ghanem
I grew up in a single-parent family after my dad had left us and my mother, who is illiterate, raised us by herself.I was born in 1967 in Jerusalem, which means that I grew up after the Six-Day-War and I was taught to hate the Jews (due to the consequences of that war). In elementary school I started learning Hebrew and our Jewish teachers were very kind to us. This caused an internal conflict in me because on one hand I was taught to hate the Jews but here I witnessed how nice and kind the Jewish teachers were behaving towards us. After I graduated from High school I applied to the university but the first Intifada broke out in 1987 and the universities were shut down. As a result I started working and developed relationships with Israeli Jews. I discovered wonderful people (just like those Jewish teachers) – unlike what I had been taught about the Jews till then. This revelation motivated me to start reading about “the other” and engage in conversations with “the other” in order to get to know Jews by talking TO them and not ABOUT them. Then I discovered the Interfaith Encounter Association, started attending encounters and found the place I had been looking for. I believe that G’d created nations and tribes so that we would strive to reach out and get to know each other, as it is mentioned in the Quran. Otherwise, He would have made us all one nation.
Two years ago I joined encounters between Jews and Muslims through the Interfaith Encounter Association. I am currently a part of a group of Jews from Jerusalem and Muslim-Arabs from the Hebron area and we get together once every three or four weeks. During the encounters wonderful friendships were formed between the participants. I discovered over time that even though we had and still have disagreements about politics, we have plenty of similarities as well. Close ties and fondness were forged between the participants from both sides and I have to admit that on a personal level I became more tolerant and understanding towards the Palestinians and the difficulties they were facing and I think the same process took place on the other side as well. Nowadays we are all looking forward to the encounters and upon one of the participants’ suggestion we started teaching each other Hebrew and Arabic. I find myself trying hard to learn new words in Arabic and the motivation to get to know each other grew tremendously. We sometimes had difficult conversations that challenged us to think deeply but then more peaceful conversations followed that allowed us to feel connected and develop our friendship. I would like to express my deep respect and appreciation towards the Interfaith Encounter Association, in which no matter who you are, whether you are religious or secular, left-wing or right-wing, a settler or a staunch opposer of settlements, a supporter of normalizating relations with Israel or opposes normalization – the door is open to all. I believe that the Interfaith Encounter Association is truly unique in its openness and tolerance. It does not require any prerequisites from any of its participants but rather provides a platform for people who are willing to listen and express their views and find the similarities. I hope that the association’s activities will continue and the organization itself will grow and expand because I have no doubt it is of high value and importance.
Endorsements from Unitarians
Since 1975 I have been a member of the First UU Society of San Francisco, with whose support I became a Credentialed Religious Educator, Master Level (now retired). I have been a member of the IARF since about 1988, when our congregation was tapped for volunteers to work at the IARF World Congress held on the Stanford campus. Having served as Treasurer on the IARF international council for the immediate past term, and currently serving as co-chair of the US Chapter, I feel deeply connected to the projects that our modest organization is able to support. Among them, the IEA may be the one I feel is most directly contributing to peace, to a diminishing of violence. When I think of world community, with peace and justice, I think that supporting this project is just about the most direct way I live that principle.
As President of the International Association for Religious Freedom and as former Convenor of the General Assembly of Unitarians in the UK, I very much endorse the work of Interfaith Encounter Association. For me their work is entirely within the spirit of the 6th Principle of the UUA: The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all. The IARF and many Unitarian and Universalist communities throughout the world have supported this work over a number of years and, given the demonstrable success and growth that the IEA has shown, it seems to me to be essential that we encourage and publicise their work as a shining example of how to combat fundamentalism and bring peace in the Middle East closer to becoming a reality.
Rev. Dr. Richard Boeke
I add my name to those w ho support the petition to “Faithify” for support of Interfaith Encounters Association.
The IARF has given birth to both the Partner Church Council and the ICUU. To my mind it still deserves the support of UUs and other Faith Communities. If Faithify takes up the cause, I will contribute to support IARF Colleagues leading the Interfaith Encounters Association. Unitarians of Horsham gave £1,000 after Dr. Yehuda Stolov spoke at our Sussex Church. Shalom, Salaam Alaykum
What your donation can do
30$ – covers printing and communications costs for one encounter session.
60$ – buys food for one encounter session.
100$ – enables a Palestinian youth to come to Israel for an encounter session.
250$ – allows us to retain trained coordinators of one encounter session.
500$ – covers all the costs for one Palestinian and Israeli Encounter.
1,500$ – pays for one retreat.
5,000$ – can sustain one ongoing dialogue group for one year.
Help Fund a...
Located in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia, the Unitarian Church of South Australia maintains a gorgeous plot of native bush land which is home to the historic Shady Grove chapel, cemetery, and hut. Unitarian services have been delivered from the chapel from as early as 1856 and continue to this day. A later addition was the hut, which is regularly used for shared lunches, children’s camps, and retreats for adults and families.
But – a new heater is needed for the hut at Shady Grove to keep the chill away in the colder months and to allow the site to be used to its full potential as a special place for our Unitarian Universalist community. Please help us buy a good quality secondhand heater for the space. Any leftover funds will be used to improve the hut at Shady Grove, which could use some additional improvements.
In love and service,
Your friends from the Unitarian Church of South Australia
Destination Dignity! Partnering with Refugees in Greece to Build a Vocational School and Worker’s Cooperative.
This a wonderful opportunity for UUs to partner with refugee communities in Greece as they seek to re-establish lives of worth and dignity. Over 65,000 refugees have been trapped in Greece for more than 2 years. Many are beginning to lose hope and to despair of ever being acknowledged as anything other than a “refugee.” This Worker’s Cooperative in Athens will be the first of its kind in Greece: designed, managed, and staffed by refugees….and supported by UUs!
Our purpose: to prepare people with vocational skills suitable for employment while also producing products and services for sale in Europe and the United States. Our on-site partners have skills in engineering, computer software, construction management, and numerous indigenous crafts. The engineer who will manage the workshop has two years of experience making furniture for refugee camps and cafes from recycled wood and metal scavenged from the streets of Athens.
Our goal is to provide enough financial stability to support at least one year of operation. Your Faithify contribution in support of our $10,000 goal will be matched dollar for dollar by an anonymous private foundation! Twenty thousand dollars will be sufficient to rent a workshop and to support vocational classes for 12 months.
Once established, we will seek sustainable support from individual donors, governmental agencies and foundations. With skill, determination and some luck, the cooperative will generate supplemental revenue to support its workers and its vocational programs. Our local partners currently plan to offer training in welding, jewelry making, woodworking, embroidery, and computer software. The board of the cooperative will make the final decision as to what skills offer their clientele the greatest possibility of employment and design their programs to accommodate those needs. The board will then select skilled trainers who are best qualified to deliver its vocational training programs.
Shared Humanity plans to establish an on-going supportive relationship with individual UUs and UU congregations and invite donors to come to Greece to work in our cooperative community. We UUs are called upon to be supportive of people who have lost their livelihoods, their homes, their communities, and most tragically, their loved ones. Our actions, and in-actions, will have a lasting impact on ourselves and those we hope to serve. Now is the time to move towards rather than away from the refugee crisis. Join us in supporting people who have as their ultimate destination……. Dignity.
For more information about Shared Humanity USA watch our in-depth video, Delivering Hope and Dignity in Greece
“As Unitarian Universalists, we are called to live out our values of social justice in the world. Shared Humanity USA, founded by UU couple, Latifa and Colin Woodhouse, is an example of putting our faith into action. This program will give refugees the tools and skills that will affirm their inherent worth and dignity. They will work collaboratively with each other to create a sustainable way forward for displaced people. I hope you will support this Faithify campaign in the way you are able.” Aisha Hauser, Director of Lifelong Learning at East Shore Unitarian Church, Bellevue, WA.
“Tragically, our world is experiencing the greatest refugee crisis since World War II. Martha and Waitstill Sharp, my grandparents and founders of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, risked their lives to save innocent people violently uprooted by war- and in doing so- left us a legacy that we Unitarian Universalists honor by our steadfast commitment to justice, equity and compassion. I am proud to be an enthusiastic supporter of Shared Humanity and invite you to join me in supporting this wonderfully innovative project that will be the first workers cooperative established in Greece by and for refugees.” Artemis Joukowsky III, PBS Producer and Co-director with Ken Burns of Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War
“We support the Worker’s Cooperative in Athens as a way to give refugees a chance for a purposeful life. This is a very innovative and well thought out approach to giving refugees the skills they will need to rebuild their lives. The facts that this operation is fully staffed by refugees and the raw materials used are recycled show that not only do we care for people was also care for our mother earth.” Susan Goekler, Chair, Commission on Social Witness and Mac Goekler, Chair UU Peace Ministry Network
Faith beyond cultures: A Retreat for UU African Francophones
Think back to the first time you heard about Unitarian Universalism. What was it that excited you? Maybe it was a specific community. Maybe it was the principles. Or the idea of combining freedom of religious thought with spiritual exploration. Think back to the feeling of excitement that drew you to explore UUism and now, imagine carrying all that excitement and enthusiasm only to discover that almost all of the materials about Unitarian Universalism were written a language you do not speak and read. Having nearly exclusively English materials means that UUism is only accessible to one in five people. There are 115 million people in Africa alone, speaking thousands of languages.
La communauté Sans Frontières is an online Francophone Ministry that seeks to serve UU Francophones around the world through a combination of online services and face to face activities. This is a fundraising for the annual retreat of this budding ministry. This annual retreat seeks to bring together UU Francophone Africans from 5 countries for a 5-day gathering August 1 – 5, 2018. The retreat will be an opportunity for fellowship, to know one another through sharing personal and community stories, to deepen our faith through morning worship services. We also plan to discuss the relevance of UUism in the African context and how our respective cultures can balance its best elements with the timeless elements of UUism. An expert in Ubuntu Philosophy will join us to do a workshop that allows us to explore ways to make our faith relevant in our lives and communities. This third retreat in our growing ministry will be an encouragement to go back home and build something relevant to the local community.
Some of the participants to this retreat are people who are Unitarians or Unitarian Universalists but are not connected to communities or congregations because there are no communities in their countries. This is the case for Congo Brazzaville. Other participants are Unitarians who are part of communities and find it hard to nurture their faith because most of the available materials are in English. These include Burundians who are active in the Burundi Unitarian Church. There are also people who used to be part of Unitarian Communities but are now refugees and not part of Unitarian communities. La communité Sans Frontières will be one way for them to be connected to a larger network in a language they can understand.
All participants will benefit from a time of deepening our faith and gaining skills such as designing meaningful worship by taking into account the culture and the local practices. Apart from the individuals people who will participate and benefit from the retreat, communities will also benefit from the skills that members will bring back. We hope that new communities may be be formed as a result of people who have enough confidence in their understanding but also a learning community they can go back to for questions and future exchanges.
The retreat is one aspect of a larger project that will be implemented in the coming year. The Canadian Unitarian Council (CUC) has signed on to support the Canadian portion of the project through the Northern Lights grant that will support our online capacities and other activities.
The people involved in this project bring various skills. The coordinator of the retreat is Rev. Ndagijimana Fulgence who now lives in Canada as a refugee as has been working with Burundian Unitarians both those who stayed in the country and those who are refugees in East Africa and in other countries. You can read more about Rev. Fulgence’s journey, theological reflections, and experience here.
An African from Congo Brazzaville who is an expert in Ubuntu Philosophy will lead a workshop during the retreat and help participants explore how Ubuntu and Unitarian Universalism can be integrated. There will be a seminary student from Meadville who will be attending and will help facilitate the work happening during the retreat. We expect to have 30 participants.
La Communauté Sans Frontières believes in partnership and will put our forces together with Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism (BLUU) to make the retreat happen. BLUU will help us cover a big portion of the cost of the retreat. Plans are underway to allow several members from the BLUU Organizing Collective to attend the retreat, with translators, it will be a moment of connection across the African and Black diaspora. We are excited about this growing partnership. The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Corvallis (UUFC) has been working hard to accept donations to support Burundi Unitarians wherever they are and are will once again facilitate the collections of donations for this campaign.
A model of this ministry has existed for decades and serves isolated UUs around the world and prisoners in the USA. The Church of the Larger Fellowship has been helpful in sharing their experiences of serving communities separated by distance. We are grateful for them to have accepted to share their experiences of doing similar ministry. We learned a lot also from the Spanish Ministry as they serve Spanish speaking people in different countries.
This is a project that will bring together people from different countries for the retreat. The people will stay connected through the rest of the work that will happen online. Worship services will be held starting from September and it will be easier for people who had an opportunity to meet during the retreat. There will also be small group ministry meeting online and face to face in different parts of the world. The project will share its learning through the website which is being built and other groups and people will be able to learn from that model and adapt it as needed and appropriate to different contexts.
The outcomes we expect from this retreat are leaders who have a deep knowledge of our faith and how it can transform lives. Skilled Unitarian Universalist leaders who can help communities thrive and a community of accountability and support throughout Francophone Africa. An active and strong small group ministry online and in person depending where people live in isolation or in proximity with other Unitarian Universalists.
BLUU will match every dollar given through this Faithify up to $5,000! Please give generously. The reason the amount is $5,800 is to cover fees associated with processing credit cards so in total, if we are successful with this campaign, we will raise just over $10,000 toward making this African Francophone Retreat happen in Rwanda. Please make your gift today!
Help Cassie get across the ocean to attend GA!
A friend here in New Zealand gave me $20 NZD towards my Faithify! Check out the pretty polymer bills here: this one has the Karearea on it.
I am a young adult seeking financial support to recoup travel costs to work at GA 2018. As the junior co-facilitator for YA@GA and delegate for Auckland Unitarian Church, I am asking for your support to help me get to General Assembly in Kansas City 2018!
The UUA generously provides accomodation and food for volunteer staff during General Assembly, but the budget only accounts for domestic flights. The maximum stipend for flights is $600 USD, but the international flights and travel insurance are well over twice that! Such a large expense cannot be managed easily as a graduate student, so please consider giving a few dollars (or more) or sharing this Faithify on social media. Keep reading for a little bit more about me and my role at GA 2018/2019…
As the Junior Co-Facilitator I have been learning from some of our brilliant young adult leaders, in preparation for stepping up as the Senior Co-Facilitator for GA 2019. My role involves working with the Young Adult and Campus Ministry staff at the UUA in creating roles and the selection of our yearly volunteer YA@GA staff, organising workshops and social events for General Assembly, and ensuring everything runs smoothly at the event itself.
As for me, as a life-long UU and expatriate to the US, I am personally and spiritually delighted to be able to return to the US to participate in GA. I grew up in what is now the Southern District, at the Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Texas. I attended UU summer camps in Oklahoma (SWUUSI) most of my childhood and into young adulthood and even Maine (Ferry Beach) a few summers as a preteen.
Before emigrated out of the north Texas area, I spent my Sundays at Horizon Unitarian Universalist Church, organising workshops for the young adults, facilitating Coming of Age, and teaching Adult/Young Adult OWL.
I am dedicated to doing anti-racism work, such as the White Supremacy Teach-In at Auckland Unitarian and Undoing Racism with the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond at GA in 2017. I am a member of Allies For Racial Equity, and have done a White Supremacy workshop for Horizon UU in Carrollton, Texas.
Here in New Zealand I am studying the experiences of transgender and gender diverse people with their doctors, and a volunteer locally for teaching on LGBT+ issues for university faculty and student leadership. As a delegate to a church so far from the US, I present my congregation with a unique and rare opportunity to participate and engage with UUA politics and going ons.
The nitty gritty:
Flights from NZ to the US are about $1400.00 USD, my required international travel insurance will be around $160-$200.00 USD. With the UUA travel stipend of $600.00 USD, it will be about $1000. $1200 should safely cover my expenses, processing fees on the Faithify platform, and any unforeseen travel add ons! Any amount raised over the goal will be put towards the trip to GA 2019, where I will be the Senior Co-Facilitator for YA@GA.
Thank you for your time and energy, and I hope to see you at GA in Kansas City!
Lupembe flood victims
Lupembe Village is in Karonga District, northern part of Malawi. This is my hometown . I left Malawi in 1993 to pursue a better life here in the United states.
On February 2nd 2018, I learned that most of Lupembe residents had lost everything due to the flood on February 1st 2018. It was estimated that there are 1,028 families affected by the flood. Based on my understanding 20-30 families were assisted by the Red Cross of Malawi. To date, hundreds of families are remain without assistance. I feel compelled to help the families, however am not able to do this alone.
The families are in need of basic necessities, such as clean water, medical supplies, rebuilding of homes, food and household goods. The residents of Lupembe are predominantly farmers and fishermen. My church, Unitarian Society of Hartford, Connecticut, helped to raise money towards purchasing 80 bags of maize. This assisted eighty families.
I need your help to provide assistance to remaining families. Your contribution can help achieve a solution.
If you have information of international organizations that can help with rebuilding their homes, please email them to me. I have direct contact with the member of parliament for Karonga District, Mr. Frank Mwenefumbo. His contact information will be provided upon request.