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Together, Marching for PEACE in the Middle East.

Imam Yahya Hendi

Almost every day, we wake up with sad news coming to us from the Middle East. We hear of homes being destroyed in or around Jerusalem and women and children being killed. The Land once inhabited or witnessed by Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad has turned into a sea of blood. The city of Jerusalem, for whose peace all the prophets of God prayed, has become a place were bombs go off killing civilians and spreading fear. The Land made Holy for all the people by the Divine has become a center for militarism, racism and wars. Most of this happens in the name of the One believed by all three Abrahamic traditions to be The All-Peaceful God. It is about time that God’s name gets disassociated from all that which undermines His Compassionate Glory and violates His Loving Majesty. Jews, Christians and Muslims are called upon to reintroduce their faiths to the Middle East in a way that does not condone violence and in a way that promotes peace.

In Judaism, the word shalom is derived from the word shalem, which means complete, fullness and perfection; therefore peace in Judaism means perfection and completion. There are three levels of perfect relationships to which one aspires: between man and himself, between man and his fellowman and between the nation of Israel and all other nations. Numerous halakhic regulations and laws have been enacted to promote peace between Jews and non-Jews. The well known verse, Isaiah 11:6, about the lion lying in peace with the lamb is the hope that all nations, strong and weak, will be able to live together in peace.

Jews must aspire to bring peace to the lives of Palestinian Christians and Muslims as much as they do for themselves. Rabbi Yose said: “Let the property of your fellow man be as precious to you as your own.” A man came before Rabbi Rava once and said to him, “the ruler of my city ordered me, ‘Go and slay so an so. If you do not, I will slay you.’ ” Rava replied, “Let yourself be slain rather than slay. What makes you think your blood is redder than his? Perhaps that man’s blood is redder.” Rabbi Levitas of Yavneh said: “Be very, very humble, for the end of man’s hope is the worm.”

In Christianity, one reads how Jesus manifested unconditional love for all people. He gave himself to save sinners. He called his disciples to love their enemies, to rely only on faith. Above all, Jesus called on one to judge himself before judging others and to criticize oneself before criticizing others.

Love and peace do not go hand in hand with hatred and murder. In 1 John 3:15 one finds “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.” Christians are called upon to be proactive in the work of justice and not to remain passive. To be respected and honored, Christians must manifest total justice for all parties involved in the Arab-Israeli conflict. “For Harold respected John, knowing that he was a just man and a holy… and he heard him gladly” Mark 6:20

Muslims have a big role to play, as well, in the peace building efforts in the Holy Land. Inspired by their faith, Muslims can share the responsibility on the path to peace and reconciliation. The Qur’an makes it clear to Muslims that the struggle against injustice and oppression is a universal struggle in which Muslims are called to join others among whom are Christians and Jews. Prior to Islam, God’s prophets taught the principles of morality and law that have served humankind for centuries as a basis of judgment between right and wrong.

The very word Islam from the Arabic Silm connotes peace according to the tradition of prophet Muhammad. Peace is one of the prerequisites of Islam. Islam states that a Muslim is one from whose tongue and hand all people are safe. One of the attributes of God described in the Qur’an is As-salaam, which means peace and security. Paradise is the abode of peace granted to those who work for peace. When war breaks out, the Qur’an teaches that peace and reconciliation are the best of all actions. God has decreed that success will be achieved though a reconciliatory path, and not on a confrontational or a violent course of action. Whenever Muhammad had an option between two courses of action, he always chose the non- confrontational one. Non-confrontational work for justice is the best of all deeds as the Qur’an puts it: “Stand out firmly for justice even if it were against yourselves” 4:127

Jewish, Christian and Muslim clergymen and woman must start marching together for peace in the Middle East. They must work together to ensure that the three faiths peacefully co-exist in an environment that respects the religious sites of all three faiths. The three communities can share the land with full respect for shared perspectives and the inalienable right of all sides to self-determination, both politically and as individuals.

Jews, Muslims, and Christians agree that the Almighty God is One. They have more in common than one would think. Abraham, the father of all, is spiritually the shared ancestor of half the people alive today. We all pray that God will bless the nations of the world through all the descendants of Abraham on their quest for peace.

If we were Abraham’s children we would do the work of Abraham. Each community has a direction to which it turns. However, we can so compete with one another in doing peace building around the world.

Is it possible for the children of Abraham to coexist peacefully?

In his most recent visit to Jerusalem, Pope John Paul II prayed that:
God of our fathers, you chose Abraham and his descendants to bring your name to the nations. We are deeply saddened by the behavior of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer. And asking your forgiveness, we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the covenant.”

That we all might march together for peace in the Middle East for all God’s people. The one family with different brothers and sisters and the common grounds we will over come all barriers and march together.


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