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Middle East Peace Programs

Washington DC Conference Drafts an Interfaith Roadmap toward Peace

Rt. Rev. Riah Abu El-Assal, former Anglican bishop of Jerusalem"I wish I could tell you that the problem of the Middle East has been solved," said Mr. Taj Hamad as he introduced a panel presentation on "Toward a New Roadmap for Peace in the Middle East: Universal Values and Interreligious Cooperation." Some presenters in this May 17, 2007 session of the International Leadership Conference in Washington, DC, recommended adding religious trails to the roadmap.

The roadmaps of the twentieth century contained many holes and detours, observed Rt. Rev. Riah Abu El-Assal, former Anglican bishop of Jerusalem. But, he asked, "Who gives whose land? The partitioning of the Holy Land, in my mind, is the root cause of the pain and suffering of both people who claim that land as their own land."

Peace can emerge from this holy land, according to Dr. Hamdi Murad, board member of the Jordanian Interfaith Co-Existence Research Center. "We need more understanding that we are under one God and that our father is Adam and our mother is Eve. The prophets were brothers, and they had the responsibility to promote true peace among human beings."

Imam Mohammad Former US Congressman Rev. Walter Fauntroy and Former head of the US mission to Iraq, Ambassador Edward Peck have a discussion before the session begins.Former US Congressman Rev. Walter Fauntroy gave several pieces of advice from his years of civil rights work with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.: "Tell the truth with love, and face reality with courage. Religious leaders should be headlights [on the road to peace], not tail lights. Be thermostats, who set the temperature, not thermometers, who merely measure it." He described Jews, Christians and Muslims as members of the "Abraham federation."

Rev. Michael W. Jenkins, co-chair of the Middle East Peace Initiative committee, said that to bring unity among religious leaders, first one needs leaders who are religious. "Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was given to us by God," he said. "He led people beyond race, tradition and boundaries." Rev. Sun Myung Moon, founder of UPF, preached the vision of the world coming together in his first church in Pusan, Korea in 1951, a hut made of mud and cardboard boxes. In 1965, he went to Jordan and prayed on Mt. Nebo, where he received the inspiration that peace would come by Judaism, Christianity and Islam coming together. With that inspiration he sent a delegation of Christian ministers to Jerusalem in May 2003 to repent for what Christianity had done to Jewish people for 2,000 years. This led to Jews repenting and expressing love for Jesus. There was a response from Jews and Muslims, launching a series of peace missions bringing people from all faiths around the world for peace marches, dialogues, and briefings.

Since the International Leadership Conference was on the theme of "American Leadership in a Time of Global Crisis," presenters offered their perspectives on the US role in the Middle East:

"When America promotes justice it brings hope to the world, not when it promotes unfairness and hatred," said Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi, founder of the Islamic House of Wisdom in Detroit, Michigan. The Iranian native said, "We love the America of diversity and respect." He hopes to help dispel ignorance about his native Iran, which he described as a country of pluralism where churches and synagogues are operating freely.

Achieving substantial and real peace requires courage and good will by all parties, according to H.E. General Dr. Falak Suliman Jamaani, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives of Jordan. "Comprehensive peace and stability are the only solutions for the concurrent crises in the region," she said, "including the security of Israel, as stipulated in the Arab Peace Initiative."

There were suggestions for the interfaith process:

Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi, founder of the Islamic House of Wisdom"In Detroit," said Imam Elahi, "we gathered both Shi'a and Sunni imams to sign a joint statement against Islamic extremism and radicalism. This would be good in Iraq and Afghanistan." He noted that mainstream churches are losing members to more extreme Christian movements and added, "It would be good for Christians to sign such a statement also."

Rev. Jenkins proposed the process that the MEPI peace missions have developed: showing respect for people of other faiths, in-depth study of scriptures and interreligious dialogue, communicating the synthesis of those insights to political and judicial leaders, and taking that message to the people.

"With the moral authority as spiritual leaders of every race, creed and color, we can build trust among those who distrust each other," said Rev. Fauntroy, quoting II Chronicles 7:14, which outlines a spiritual process culminating in a promise of God healing the land.

"If you believe it, act on it," he said. "If you are praying, give feet to your prayers."

Dr. Chang Shik Yang, chairman of the Middle East Peace Initiative (MEPI) of the Universal Peace Federation, opened with a call for people to embody the highest ideals of love, family and faith found in the world's religious traditions. He said "MEPI is building an atmosphere of trust and healing through an interreligious body of men and women transcending boundaries and embracing the family of humankind."


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