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Middle East Peace Programs

In the News: Use Religion to Advance Peace in Jerusalem

Amid a wave of Muslim militants' attacks from the United States through Spain, Russia, and Iraq to Indonesia, some 600 people from Europe, America, and the Far East convened in Jerusalem in an attempt to find more tracks to advance peace.

"Since 9-11 (the al-Qaida attacks in New York and Washington) the alienation of the Muslim world towards the Judeo-Christian world has deteriorated so rapidly," the Rev. Michael Jenkins, Chairman of the Family Federation for World Peace, noted. The Family Federation and the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace - Europe, which organized the conference, were founded by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, who also founded News World Communications, Inc., which owns United Press International.

Jenkins quoted a recent book, Islam Under Siege, whose author Akbar S. Ahmed, head of the Ibn Khaldun Chair at the American University in Washington D.C., noted that young people are shifting from a moderate position of basically pro-modernization, pro-development and cooperation with the West to a more radicalized position.

Some speakers blamed religious leaders for the deterioration.

The Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem and the Middle East, Riah Abu Assal told UPI: "Much harm has been (done) under the name of religion. People have used, misused and ultimately abused religions and religious values."

The President of IIFWP-Europe, Yong Cheol Song, criticized "some who claim to be religious (who) have been at the forefront of disharmony, sectarianism, and narrow-minded absolutism."

Jenkins expressed concern over an emerging reaction. The Western world, Europe and particularly America "is starting to see the destruction of Islamic religion and culture as one of its agenda items. ... We cannot take this lightly. ... This is a serious, serious problem," he warned.

The conference was held at the site of one the intifada assassinations: the Hyatt Hotel in East Jerusalem, where Palestinian militants shot and killed Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavaam Ze'evi as he returned to his room after breakfast. Friday's gathering was exactly one month short of the assassination's third anniversary.

At the end of this month the intifada will mark its fourth anniversary. By Friday the Israeli side counted more than 1,000 deaths of Israelis and visitors and the Palestinians, according to their Red Crescent Society, 2,483.

"We are here witnessing a very very violent, a very dangerous thing ... going towards acceleration," warned former Israeli-Arab Knesset Member Walid Sadiq.

The answer, speakers maintained, was to use religion to enhance peace.

"Religious leaders must inspire leaders in all fields to set their sights on God's original ideal, peace and the practice of true love, not conflict," advocated Song. "They must reflect on their roots and connect to the founding ideals expressed in the core teachings and practices of Moses, Jesus and the Prophet Mohammed," he added.

Jenkins noted the Muslim, Jewish and Christian worlds have common roots "all to be found here in Jerusalem ... where you can touch and feel and embrace our common spiritual roots....

"God sent Moses to create the chosen people of Israel, God sent Mohammed -- peace be upon him -- to create understanding of the one God. ... God sent Jesus to bring love and understanding," he said.

"This city is the greatest city of hope .... All of the Western world and now all of the world through the major religions are rooted here. Therefore, we come here to asks God's blessing upon our efforts to find peace, to allow the religious and the academic and the NGO ... the people of thought to work with the people of pragmatism ... the politicians, the political leaders who are absolutely needed ... and with that ... we feel hope," he said.

"Many scholars are saying that if we solve this in Palestine and Israel, we will heal the world," he said.

Israeli political scientist Eliezer Glaubach concurred.

Alluding to the roadmap for peace that the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia launched last year, he said: "It's a political roadmap, and we need a spiritual roadmap (too).... A joint venture between a political roadmap and a spiritual roadmap may bring peace to our area, to Korea to all over the world."

Sadiq appealed for international intervention. "We need you very very much ... especially the United States and Europe," he said.

"If we will leave the Palestinians and the Israelis together, they will fight each other to the end," he warned.

"Ours is the business of peacemaking and reconciliation," maintained Abu Assal.

The Israelis and Palestinians "seem to be to be ready to die for the cause of their homeland. It's time we helped them live for a greater cause -- namely, the cause of life and the cause of reconciliation.

"This is the business of the believer in one God, not politicians," he said.

For photos of Middle East Peace Initiative programs during 2004, click here.

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