Category Archives: TOLERANCE & SOLIDARITY

Meet Janna Jihad, the 13-Year-Old Palestinian Journalist Exposing the Israeli Occupation

. . TOLERANCE AND SOLIDARITY . .

A report from Democracy Now (licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License)

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report.

I’m Amy Goodman. “My camera is my gun.” Those are the words of a celebrated Palestinian journalist who’s been reporting on the Israeli occupation from the West Bank for more than six years. But Janna Jihad isn’t any journalist. She’s just 13 years old. She started telling stories about her home of Nabi Saleh when she was only 7, after her cousin and her uncle were killed in the village. Since then, Janna has shared countless videos about Palestinian resistance with viewers around the world, on Twitter, on YouTube, on Facebook, garnering tens of thousands of followers. This is a clip of Janna Jihad confronting Israeli soldiers in the occupied West Bank last year, in 2018.


Video of interview with Janna Jihad

JANNA JIHAD: From here, as you can see, those terrorist people, humans with no humanity, are coming to our land, trying to kill children and to make children get injured. From here, we’re sending our message and saying that Palestine will be free. From Nabi Saleh, Janna Jihad, occupied Palestine.

AMY GOODMAN: You hear that sign-off: “From Nabi Saleh, this is Janna Jihad, in occupied Palestine.” Janna is the cousin of Ahed Tamimi, the teenage activist who became a heroine to Palestinians after a viral video showed her slapping an Israeli soldier near her family’s home in the occupied West Bank. It was right after she had learned her cousin had been shot in the face by an Israeli soldier.

Janna Jihad is in the United States this month to share her stories about Palestine around the country. She joins us now in our New York studio.

Janna, thanks for making this stop.

JANNA JIHAD: Thank you. Thank you for, like, letting me come here and just, like, to speak more about my issue and, like, about my message as a Palestinian child.

AMY GOODMAN: So, when did you pick up your cellphone to start videoing? And was it your cellphone?

JANNA JIHAD: So, it was my mother’s cellphone. I was only 7 years old when I started doing journalism. It was when I saw that there were not enough journalists to cover things that happened in my village, Nabi Saleh, and also in Palestine in general. Like, when my friend Mustafa was killed, my uncle Rushdie was killed, a lot of things were happening, and the world didn’t know about how we, as Palestinian children living under this Israeli military occupation, are living, how we’re suffering, how we’re — like, how our rights are getting violated, our childhood is not given to us. So I wanted to be the voice of those children and to just be the messenger of their message, which is very important, and to raise awareness about this very important international issue.

AMY GOODMAN: So, at 7 years old, you take your mom’s cellphone, and you start videoing.

JANNA JIHAD: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: And posting those videos.

JANNA JIHAD: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: You say your camera is your gun. What do you mean?

JANNA JIHAD: So, I always say that my camera is my weapon of choice, because using my camera, it’s a very peaceful and nice way to resist this occupation. And by using my camera, I can send a message, and it can be even more effective than a gun, more effective than violence, more effective than killing people.

AMY GOODMAN: How do Israeli soldiers respond to your videoing?

JANNA JIHAD: Of course, it’s pretty hard. Like, for example, last year I got — the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Thoughts made a secret report about me, saying that I’m the next threat on their country.

AMY GOODMAN: Wait, wait, wait. You have to repeat what you just said.

JANNA JIHAD: OK.

AMY GOODMAN: The Israeli Ministry of?

JANNA JIHAD: Of Strategic Thoughts.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you know about this report on you?

JANNA JIHAD: OK, I’ll explain. So, the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Thoughts made a secret report about me, saying that I’m the next threat on their state. And this report was revealed by the Israeli fourth news channel. And after that, I got a lot of threats, intimidations by the Israeli street. And after that, I got registered by the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate. And, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you are the youngest press card-carrying journalist in the world. You just turned 13.

JANNA JIHAD: Thirteen, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: What does that mean? How does that protect you to have that press card?

JANNA JIHAD: So, I’m the youngest Palestinian registered press card-carrying journalist in the world. So, I got registered after this report was revealed. And it was also right after I was stopped on the border. I was only 12 years old and four days, when I was stopped while coming back from Jordan on the Israeli border, and was interrogated for three hours. And it was, of course, illegal, because, like, if a minor got interrogated, in the international law, I have to have my parent or a lawyer, and I didn’t have any of those. And it was pretty hard for me. And after that, I got registered, which would be like a bit of protection, although it’s not really protection, because all of the journalists get killed, arrested and injured in the occupied Palestine. But it helps a little bit, you know? Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to your cousin, Ahed, for a moment, Ahed Tamimi, the young Palestinian activist who served an eight-month term in Israeli prison. She became a heroine to so many Palestinians and many others around the world, when video went viral showing her slapping an Israeli soldier near the family’s home just after Ahed had learned her cousin had been gravely wounded by an Israeli soldier, who shot him in the head using a rubber-coated steel bullet. We got a chance to speak with Ahed soon after she was released from prison, and we asked her about the conditions in the jail.

AHED TAMIMI: [translated] There were women, and there were children. There was one woman who had been detained under administrative detention. Administrative detention means the detention is based on undisclosed files, so the detainee doesn’t know why they’re detained. Administrative detainees only attend administrative courts, and their sentence is always extended. At first, it might be six months, but it’ll be renewed another time for four months. They’ll tell you your administrative detention is six months, but then, after six months, they’ll tell you they’ve extended another four. After four months, they’ll tell you another six. It’s like the prisoner — may God rest his soul — Ali Jamal, who spent seven consecutive years under administrative detention.

There are over 350 children in prison, and three children who are under administrative detention. The conditions children endure in prison are very difficult. Prison isn’t for anyone. And the prison administration puts a lot of pressure on them, so it’s very difficult. I hope for the release of all prisoners, and especially children, as soon as possible.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that is Ahed Tamimi. We were speaking to her in front of her house. She was broadcasting from there to our New York studio, where I got a chance to interview her. She is 18 years old. She was jailed when she was 16, turned 17 in prison. What has Ahed’s activism meant to you? Tell us about Nabi Saleh, where you all live.

JANNA JIHAD: So, Nabi Saleh is a very small village, 500 people living there. It’s like so small. Also, we have an Israeli illegal settlement built on the land in Nabi Saleh, which is only 50 meters far from the village. And there is a checkpoint on the entrance. It’s very small. We’re all one family, which is the Tamimi family. Ahed is my cousin and my best friend. She was always. You know, I am the only child, and she has no sister, so we are always together and stuff. And yeah, Ahed is like — we’re really close. We always have been going to demonstrations and marches and like everything together. And it’s pretty nice, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: And what was it like for you when she went to jail? She went to jail for slapping an Israeli soldier. So, she had just learned that your cousin, her cousin, had just been shot in the head by a rubber-tipped steel coated bullet?

JANNA JIHAD: Yeah. So, if you want, I can tell you Mohammed’s story, which is our cousin who got shot in the head, which was — he was just like literally playing. The soldiers were in the village for a couple of — for the past couple of days. And they were just shooting gas canisters randomly. There were no demonstrations, no clashes, no anything. It was just them raiding the village. And it was like right after Trump’s declaration that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel, and a lot of stuff, like, were happening in the West Bank and, you know, like a lot of demonstrations and stuff. And it was that time.

So, Mohammed was playing with his friends, soccer, on the mountain. And he was just — so, like, you know, shooting, it’s pretty normal for us, and we would play outside, because, like, you know, it’s always happening.

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Question for this article

Presenting the Palestinian side of the Middle East, Is it important for a culture of peace?

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AMY GOODMAN: What’s always happening?

JANNA JIHAD: When, like, the Israeli occupation forces would just like start shooting gas canisters randomly. And then, suddenly, that shooting stopped. So, Mohammed thought that somebody got arrested or somebody got injured. So he was right next to that wall. It’s not a separation well, but it’s a normal wall. And he had a ladder. So he just climbed that ladder and wanted to see if something happened. And in the same moment, he climbed that ladder and just like took a look. The Israeli military soldiers were right under the wall. And one of them just shot him with a rubber-coated bullet, which came right here, right next to his nose, and was stuck in his brain. And he was in a coma for seven days. He lost a whole one-third of his skull. And he was under treatment. He had got arrested even three times while he was treated.

And after that — so, the problem about the world is that they only see the slap, but they don’t see the whole story. So, after that, the same soldiers just came right next to Ahed’s house and wanted to enter, because Ahed’s house is in a, like, pretty high area, so they can pretty much see everyone. They wanted to go to the roof of Ahed’s house and just like shoot.

AMY GOODMAN: Of Ahed.

JANNA JIHAD: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Who, at the time, was 16.

JANNA JIHAD: Yeah. They wanted to go to her house, to her properties, and start shooting more children. And Ahed was pretty much — she didn’t want them to go into her house, pretty much. And then he started pushing her, and then she slapped him. And that’s why she got arrested for eight months.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, you’re sitting here telling us this story. You’re telling us a story of when you were like, what, 10, 11 years old. Your cousin is shot in the face, is shot in the head, and now he’s lost a third of his brain or his skull in the process. How does this affect you as a child? How do you process this?

JANNA JIHAD: So, of course, a lot of difficult stuff for us as children living under this occupation happens. Like, for example, I saw a lot of people in my life getting killed in front of me. I was trying to — you know, we all — like, we get traumatized. We’re humans. You know, it’s pretty hard for us to process all of that. But we always believe that we want freedom, and wanting freedom is not easy. We have to pay the price of freedom. And the price of freedom won’t be that cheap. It’s going to be pretty expensive. A lot of people are going to get killed. A lot of people are going to get arrested. A lot of people are going to, like, get injured. But our main goal is to liberate Palestine, to live in freedom, love, peace and equality and justice, like any other human and child deserves to live.

AMY GOODMAN: You recently put out on Facebook the story of Mahmoud Salah.

JANNA JIHAD: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Who you say was shot in the leg by an Israeli sniper.

JANNA JIHAD: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Tell us what happened to him. What were the circumstances, and what has since happened?

JANNA JIHAD: So, Mahmoud Salah is a child from the village of al-Khader, next to the city of Bethlehem. So, Mahmoud Salah, he was playing after Iftar in Ramadan with his friends. He was playing soccer in the street. And his house is like basically right next to the separation wall. So, he was playing soccer, and then the soccer ball just went right next to the wall, so he went there to fetch it.

And then those Israeli soldiers in the tower shot him with a live munition, for basically no reason, in the leg. And his friends were trying to go help him, but those soldiers were faster than his friends, surrounded him. And they were shooting at his friends and didn’t allow anybody to come close to him — his family, his mom, his dad or anyone.

So they arrested his body. He fainted. He wasn’t even knowing what’s happening around him. And then, like, they didn’t inform the family about anything. After two days, they didn’t know anything about him, where was he, what happened to him. But he was at — he woke up, after two days, in an Israeli military hospital. And he had his leg cut off.

AMY GOODMAN: His leg was amputated.

JANNA JIHAD: Yeah, his leg was — like, he lost his leg, basically. And, like, none of his family was informed. And right now he’s under arrest even, for no reason, no charges. And —

AMY GOODMAN: How old is he?

JANNA JIHAD: He’s only — I think he’s only 14 years old, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: So, how do you cover these stories? Like, you don’t tweet. You’re on Facebook. What exactly do you do with your phone?

JANNA JIHAD: So, I usually try to, you know, cover whatever happens, like, for example, night raids, raids that are happening, when I’m coming back from my school on checkpoints. So, I usually even — like, usually go on live videos, because if I didn’t, if I was usually recording, they would just try to take my phone and try to break it or delete the videos off of it. So I always try to make my reports and just speak of what’s happening right in front of me, and then post it on my Facebook page. I have, like, right now about 300,000 followers. And, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: How often do you get to go to school? How often are schools closed in Nabi Saleh?

JANNA JIHAD: So, basically, our freedom of movement is violated. So, we have — me going to my school as a student is a struggle, because I face three checkpoints in my way. And those Israeli checkpoints are basically not checkpoints, but are barriers that block the street and close the whole street. And we cannot get anywhere because of those. So, usually, instead of me like reaching my school in about 25 to 30 minutes, I have to go to another way that takes me about two hours and a half to three hours to reach my school.

And it’s not only me that is getting affected. For example, my grandma started doing kidney dialysis two years ago because of how much tear gas she used to inhale, because, like, they shoot randomly at houses, at people. And, like, she has to go to the hospital three days a week, and sometimes she can’t. A lot of pregnant women gave birth to children in the car on those checkpoints. A lot of patients cannot go to the hospitals. Workers cannot go to their works. And it’s pretty hard, because we cannot go to the places we need to be at, at time. And it’s pretty — it’s a violation of our human rights.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you see as the solution for what is happening in the Occupied Territories and Israel?

JANNA JIHAD: OK, yeah. So, that’s a good question. We have the two-state solution, and we have the one-state solution. So, let’s start with the two-state solution. The two-state solution is basically dead, because, as a question, where are the borders of Israel? It was supposed to be the West Bank and Gaza for the Palestinians. But 68% of the West Bank is basically illegal settlements. And it’s pretty — it’s pretty much dead. And even like Israel doesn’t want it and is not working on it at all. Even, like, they signed on it, but it’s pretty much bad.

And then we have the one-state solution. For me, the one-state solution is the solution that would work. It can be that all of us could live together, same rights, under one government, getting exactly the same rights, me like the same as any other person. And all the refugees could come back to Palestine. All the people could live in peace, just in equality. And I have no problem with living with anybody, but a person that has — like, I would live with anybody that has a good mind, that they want peace and love and equality. And we have basically no problem. Like, welcome to our land, if you believe in peace, because it’s a land of peace, that never saw peace before. So, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you have a particular message for Israeli children?

JANNA JIHAD: So, Israeli children, I believe — we’re not the only victims, but we are freedom fighters as Palestinian children. But the Israeli children are, for me, a victim for the occupation. Because why would an 11-years-old child be holding a weapon that is even taller than him, and walking with it in the street? Why would they —

AMY GOODMAN: Have you seen that?

JANNA JIHAD: I’ve seen it. And I’ve seen children having —

AMY GOODMAN: You mean you’ve seen a settler child.

JANNA JIHAD: Uh-huh, a settler child in even like Jerusalem and anywhere we would go, like the children would be holding guns and like holding weapons. And why would a child hold that? Why would a child be raised on that mindset of killing people and on that like mindset of Zionism and really bad stuff, that we don’t want any child in this world to be raised on?

So, my message to the Israeli children is that we are all children, and we are all victims of that occupation. So, we have to stand up [to] the occupation. And, you know, the problem, I was debating that yesterday, that, like, the problem the Israeli youth are that, like, they’re going more to the right side of the government and stuff, and they’re more like a 17-years-old child would just like go and serve in the IDF. They’re supposed to go when they’re 17 years old. And it’s pretty bad, you know? And I believe that we all, children around this world, have to all unite to make this world a world of peace, love and equality and justice, because we’re the leaders of the future, and we’re the leaders of today, and we have to make a difference. We don’t have to just like repeat the mistakes of the adults right now, where they’re all separated and where, like, they’re all divided. And they just — like, we all want to live in peace. And we’re just tired of all of that, that’s happening around us.

AMY GOODMAN: Would you say that’s your message to children of the world, overall?

JANNA JIHAD: Yeah, that’s my message to all the children around the world, because we can make a difference, and we have to.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you so much for being with us. Janna Jihad just turned 13 years old. She is a Palestinian journalist, one of the youngest journalists, card-carrying journalists, in the world. She lives in Nabil Saleh in the occupied West Bank. And she is the cousin of Ahed Tamimi, who was considered a heroine to so many around the world, served time in an Israeli prison when she was 16 years old, turned 17 in person. You can go to democracynow.org to see our full interview with Ahed in Nabi Saleh. It’s been so great to have you in our studio.

JANNA JIHAD: Thank you. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Thank you so much, Janna. This is Democracy Now! Thank you very much for joining us.

(Thank you to Phyllis Kotite, the CPNN reporter for this article.)

Manifesto on diversity: the Land of Canaan

. . TOLERANCE AND SOLIDARITY . .

An article by Mazin Qumsiyeh

At the Edinburgh International Festival I was asked to give a manifesto
for the future. Thinking about it, I propose that briefly I address the
issue of existential need to maintain biological diversity including human
diversity. This resonates deeply with me due partly to my background in
biology and medical genetics: the former helped understand better the
evolution of diversity in nature and the latter (together with my social
and polical interests) the nature and importance of human diversity.

In many ways I think we can approach phenomena like racism, environmental
destruction, colonization and wars via a diagnostic-therapeutic approach.
As a student of science I was always keen in following this pragmatic
approach with proposing rational testable hypothesis, collecting data,
testing and retesting ideas with as little bias as is reasonably possible.
With regards to the situation in Western Asia (aka “Middle East”), I wrote
a book called Sharing the Land of Canaan, which talks about patient
history, symptoms and underlying cause (etiology) as well  as prognostics.
I addressed in more detail the therapy in a book called “Popular Resistance
in Palestine, History of Hope and Empowerment”. Here I do not want to go
over these details and I want to just focus on one issue which is human
diversity as a an imeprative – strengthening diversity as the most rational
and obvious outcome even following colonial anti-colonial struggle.

I was professor at Yale University Medical School and when I was teaching
my students I would say, you have to take a bit of patient history,
understand what’s going on, and then you make the right diagnosis, and then
you offer therapy and you look to prognosis. Taking the same approach is
the logical way of looking at things, not emotional gut feeling kind of
thing. Our subject or patient is a geographic region that is very
significant, it’s at the nexus of continents and the cradle pf
civilizations. Due to geologic and geographic location, we have rich
biodiversity including human diversity. A bottleneck for bird migration
where >500 million birds pass on annual migrations from Eurasia to Africa.
It was also a bottleneck for human migration where early humans spread out
of Africa to the rest of the world.

This is the first area on planet earth that humans went from
hunter-gatherers to agricultural and pastoral lifestyles. It is where we
first domesticated plants like wheat, barley, and lentils and animals like
goats and sheep. This is thus the fertile crescent. Jericho for example is
the oldest continuously inhabited town on Earth; It has always had people.
Of course these people acquired different religions, as religions come and
go but the native/indigenous people stayed here for 12,000 years since that
dawn of agriculture and animal husbandry.  It is what we call dawn of
civilization because when people went from hunter-gatherers to agricultural
communities their numbers went up so they lived in villages and towns and
started to organize their lives and started to be more creative creative
with the Iron and Bronze age. These people, our ancestors the Canaanites,
are depicted in hieroglyphics and in Mesopotamian reliefs as rich people
who had a fertile productive county (the land of milk and honey mentioned
in the Bible).

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Question for this article

Presenting the Palestinian side of the Middle East, Is it important for a culture of peace?

How can a culture of peace be established in the Middle East?

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Our Canaanitic ancestors evolved into various tribes: Nebateans (early
Arab), Jebuisites, Hebrews, Ammonites, Phoenecians and Phyllistines among
others. Towns and villages that they inhabited prospered and as they
diversified and specialized they traded their goods. Cheese and butter of
Nebateans for perfumes from Jericho and wood from cedars of Lebanon. For
these 12,000 years we have had very little conflict here. Palestine having
multiethahnic, multireligious, multicultural and even multilingual society
for thousands of years. This may surprise some of you because you watch
western media which is basically propaganda nonsense. This country is one
of the least conflicted on Earth. We are just unlucky to be living in this
era now. If you go back before this conflict between natives and Zionism
you would go to the Crusaders, 1190 AD, another conflict that came from
outside. So we’re talking about hundreds of years with no conflict in
between short episodes imposed on us from outside.

So this is not a congenital problem, the patient is not hopeless, the
patient has had episodes, once in a while, but these native people
prospered developing religion, laws, music, and even the alphabet. The
latin alphabet was invented and evolved by our Canaanite ancestors. The
Aramaic language that Jesus spoke had significant influence as it evolved
to Arabic, Assyrian, and Hebrew. Like languages, religious beliefs also
evolved and diversified.  Our country has always been multi-ethnic,
multicultural, multi-religious, and multilingual. Very rare episodes which
came from outside attempted and failed (e.g. Crusaderism, Zionism) to
change this. Settler colonialism is not uncommon diagnosis and it is a very
destructive force for both the native humans and all other native fauna and
flora. We can cite for example destruction of millions of endogenous trees
and planting European pine trees to hide the places of the destroyed
Palestinian villages. We  can cite draining the Hula wetlands, diversion of
the Jordan valley waters (leading to desertification) and the politically
motivated Red Sea-Dead Sea Canal.

I’m optimistic because our subject, the Western part of the Fertile
Crescent has been healthy and prosperous and strong (via diversity). Its
current setback started with an idea called Zionism. Zionism is not a
complicated idea, it says that European Jews are discriminated against in
Europe, they should have their own state, so come and take this country
that is called Palestine and make it the Jewish state of Israel. Most
blacks in North America resisted discrimination but there was a minority
who decided to go make their own state created a nation state in western
Africa, Liberia, and the problem for them is the same problem that these
European Jews faced, and Herzl also one of the founders of this movement
faced, is that Liberia was not a land without a people for a people without
a land. There were people there, natives, and what to do with the natives
is always a problem for people who come from abroad to try and create new
realities on the ground.  Today 7.5 million of us Palestinians are refugees
or displaced people (of a total 13 million Palestinians).  Settler
colonialism has one of three possible outcomes: 1) Algerian model where 2-3
million Algerians were killed in the struggle and then one million French
packed their bags and went to Europe, 2) Australia and the US model
(genocide of natives), 3) The rest of the world model were descendants of
the colonizers and descendants of the colonized live in one country and
share it. There is no fourth scenario in the history of colonization.

The diagnosis and the prognosis (third scenario) is logical and attempts by
colonizers are monolithic society fail (cf Crusaderism, Zionism).  They
fail because diversity is strength. In biology when I look at the forest
and I see one species dominate I don’t say this is a healthy forest. I say
this is unhealthy, it’s going to decline. The strength comes from
diversity, so we say that’s what will happen here and that’s another reason
why I’m optimistic – we fight for equality and to maintain the country the
way it was supposed to be: multi-ethnic multi-cultural and multi-religious.

Therapy in the form of popular resistance and a global joint struggle as we
did against apartheid in South Africa is working. We just need to intensify
it.

(Thank you to Phyllis Kotite, the CPNN reporter for this article which she received by email from Mazin.)

Mexico: Congress for Peace and Youth 2019

. TOLERANCE & SOLIDARITY .

An article from El Sol de Cuernavaca (translation by CPNN)

In the framework of August youth month, Diego Alcázar Pérez, director of Impajoven, announced the call for the 1st edition of the Congress for Peace and Youth 2019 that will aim to raise awareness among participants about the importance of peace for community development.


Photo: Froylán Trujillo

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(Click here for the original Spanish article)

Question related to this article:
 
Youth initiatives for a culture of peace, How can we ensure they get the attention and funding they deserve?

(Continued from left column)

The event to be held in September is sponsored by the State System of Policies with and by youth participation. They will create a manifesto of the youth 2019 where they will make demands on the government. The governor Cuauhtémoc Blanco Bravo has recognized them as agents of peace, promoting political participation and the culture of peace.

The Congress will be held at the Cultural Center “Los Chocolates” along with six activities: political rehearsal; artistic and digital poster contest; Impamun United Nations model; resistance workshops and non-violent actions; as well as the culture of peace workshop. The Congress seeks young people to be agents of change in their locality.

Asian Buddhist Conference for Peace Marks 50th Anniversary in Mongolia

. . TOLERANCE AND SOLIDARITY . .

An article from Buddhist Door

The 11th General Assembly of the Asian Buddhist Conference for Peace (ABCP) was held in the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar on 21–23 June, with delegates from Mongolia, as well as Cambodia, India, Nepal, Russia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam, with a Tibetan delegation led by Venerable Thupten Ngodup, the Nechung Kuten, with representatives from all of the major Buddhist traditions.


Group photo during the 11th General Assembly of the ABCP. From tibet.net

The conference, titled “Buddhist Heritage and Values in the 21st Century,” marked the 50th anniversary of the ABCP, first convened under the aspiration of Asian countries to preserve their cultural heritage through spreading the teachings of the Buddha and valuing wisdom and compassion in ensuring peace. 

The event was hosted by Mongolia’s foremost monastery, Gandan Tegchenling, founded in 1809 by the Gelug school of Vajrayana Buddhism, and the institutional and cultural center of Mongolian Buddhism. The monastery’s abbot, His Eminence the Khamba Lama Gabju Choijamts Demberel, is the highest-ranking Buddhist leader in the country. He is also president of the Asian Buddhist Conference for Peace and head of the Centre of Mongolian Buddhists. 

Among the leaders who participated in the conference was the most senior Buddhist in the Russian Federation and in the Republic of Buryatia, the 24th Pandito Khambo Lama Damba Badmayevich Ayusheev; the head lama of the Kalmyk people, Telo Tulku Rinpoche, who is also the honorary representative of the Dalai Lama for Russia, Mongolia, and the members of the Commonwealth of Independent States; and the head lama of the Tuvan people, Lopsan Chamzy.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama delivered a video message for the assembly, which was presented during the opening ceremony by Telo Tulku Rinpoche. His Holiness remarked that the Sakya tradition of Tibetan Buddhism first became known in Mongolia in the time of Drogon Chogyal Phagpa (the fifth leader of the Sakya school). Then, following the Omniscient Sonam Gyatso (the third dalai lama), the tradition of Je Tsongkhapa spread throughout the country. 

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Question for this article

Religion: a barrier or a way to peace?, What makes it one or the other?

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The Dalai Lama stressed that over subsequent centuries a great number of Mongolian scholars and accomplished masters had emerged, noting that during his own life many top Mongolians scholars and geshes in the three monastic universities (Drepung, Gaden, and Sera) have made remarkable contributions to the Buddhadharma. His Holiness expressed appreciation that the ABCP assembly was being held in Mongolia, and urged Mongolians to study Buddhist philosophy as even modern Western scientists are paying attention to Buddhist philosophy.

Among the distinguished guests was the president of Mongolia, Khaltmaagiin Battulga. During the opening ceremony he remarked: “Mongolia has always supported the Asian Buddhist Conference for Peace, and it has been seen as valuable contribution of Mongolians not only to ensuring peace throughout the world but to maintaining its values, which are still valid to this day. Guided by the teachings of the compassionate Buddha, during the difficult times of Cold War, the Asian Buddhist Conference for Peace made its voice heard not only in Asia but throughout the whole world. Moreover, it has presented new opportunities in cultural, educational, and economic long-term cooperation where human rights, freedom, and unity are upheld. Therefore, the conference was registered as an observer to the UN’s Economic and Social Council in 1988 in recognition of its contribution to the well-being of humanity through its actions for peace.” (Office of the President of Mongolia) 

The closing ceremony included a dinner reception and cultural performances in the Battsagan Hall of Gandan Teckchenling.

The Asian Buddhist Conference for Peace is a voluntary mass movement of Asian Buddhists reflecting their sincere aspirations to realize the ideals of peace, justice, and human dignity. Its aim is to bring together efforts of Buddhists in support of consolidating universal peace, harmony and cooperation among people of Asia.

The history of the organization dates to 1968, when three eminent Buddhist monks—Ven. Khamba Lama Samagiin Gombojav (Mongolia), Ven. Khamba Lama Jambaldorj Gomboev (USSR) and Ven. Kushok Bakula Rinpoche (India)—met in Buryatia to discuss the state of Buddhism in the region and to explore the possibility of setting up a Buddhist organization. In July 1969, Ven. Sumanatissa and Ven. Wipulasara (Sri Lanka), Ven. Jinaratana (India) and Ven. Amritananda (Nepal) visited Ulaanbaatar at the invitation of Khamba Lama Gombojav. Over the course of their meeting they agreed to establish an international Buddhist organization in the Mongolian capital.

On 13 June 1970, another meeting was held in Ulaanbaatar, setting a resolution to establish an international organization called the Asian Buddhist Committee for Promoting Peace. The first general assembly was held in the city and Ven. Gombojav was elected president. During the third general assembly in New Delhi in 1974, the organization’s current name was adopted, and in the same year His Holiness the Dalai Lama participated in the forum and became an ABCP member.

The ABCP, one of the few religious organizations registered in the United Nations, has since convened 11 general assemblies in Mongolia, Sri Lanka, India, Japan, and Laos.

Historic and Cultural Interactions Between Islam and Judaism, Muslims and Jews

. TOLERANCE & SOLIDARITY

An article by Bahar Bastani, M.D. – Saint Louis University, School of Medicine from Persian Heritage-part one and part two

There is a public perception that the Muslims and the Jews have an eternal animosity and have been in conflict through out their histories. However, Islam recognizes Judaism and Christianity as legitimate monotheistic faiths, and the Jews and the Christians as People of the Book who have received divine guidance. Moreover, in contrast to the Christians, Muslims did not consider the Jews as killers of God or God’s son. Thus, there was no inherent theological conflict between the Muslims and the Jews. The early conflicts between the Muslims and the Jews in Medina were political in nature, between the new rising power of the Islamic community (Ummah) and the older established power centers by the Jewish tribes. During the Golden Age of Islamic Civilization, 9th-12th centuries CE, both the Muslim and the Jewish civilizations flourished in the Islamic centers of higher learning in Baghdad and al-Andalusia-Spain, and the Muslim territories was safe heaven for the Jewry of the world. Also, when Spain fell under the Spanish Catholic rule in 1492 and the Jews where being persecuted, it was the Ottoman Empire that send ships to rescue the Jews from Spain into the Muslim territories. The current conflicts between some of the Muslim countries and Israel is also of political and not ideological in nature.

Part one

Judaism and Islam are both true monotheistic Abrahamic religions that originated in the Middle East. The prophet Moses founded Judaism among the ancient Hebrews over 3,500 years ago (1500BCE = Before Common Era = Before Christ). The prophet Moses was a descendent of the prophet Abraham through his wife Sarah, their son Isaac, and their grandson Jacob (also known as Israel). The Torah (the Hebrew Bible = the Christian Old Testament = the first five books of the Bible [Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy]) is the foundational text of Judaism that encompasses the religion, philosophy and culture of the Jewish people. It is believed by the Jews that God gave the Tanakh (the written Torah [the Five Books of Moses], Nevi’im [“Prophets”], and Ketuvim [“Writings”]) to the prophet Moses. The books of the Tanakh were passed on generations accompanied by the oral Torah (the Talmud: Mishnah & Gemara) that contains compiled rabbinic opinions and teachings from before the Common Era (BCE = BC) to the fifth century Common Era (CE = AD = After Death of Christ) on Jewish law & ethics, customs, history and philosophy.

The prophet Mohammad (570-632CE or AD) founded Islam in the 7th century (610CE) (1,400 years ago). The prophet Mohammad was a descendant of the prophet Abraham through Abraham’s second wife Hagar, and Abraham’s first-born son by Hagar, Ishmael. The primary sacred scripture of Islam is the Quran, which is considered by Muslims as the verbatim word of God. Other important Islamic sources are the teachings and normative example of the prophet Mohammad, which is called the Sunnah, composed of accounts called the Hadith. The books of Hadith that are considered most authentic in the Sunni Sect of Islam are called the Sihah Sittah (the six authentic books): Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Sunan Abu Dawood, Jamia Tirmizi, Sunan Nasai, Sunan Ibn Majah. The books of Hadith that are considered most authentic in the Shia Sect of Islam are called al-Kutub al-Arbaa’h (the four books): Kitab al-Kafi, Man la yahduruhu al-Fagih, Tahdhib al-Ahkam, and al-Istibsar.

In a short interval of 622 to 732CE (within a 110 years) Islam entered into the international stage, and became an important player in vast territories stretching from Iran to Spain, Morocco, northern Syria, and the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Thus, Muslims from the beginning of their history (migration from Mecca to Medina, 622CE) have been in close contact with people of the Jewish and Christian faith.
There are many shared aspects between Islam and Judaism: both are strictly monotheistic and non-compromising in a transcendent, eternal and incorporeal God who is just and merciful, who guides mankind through prophets, who prescribes laws of conduct for all daily matters from birth to death, and whom can be reached by way of prayer that should be directed to God and not to others with no need for intermediaries or clergy; a God who is aware of the thoughts and deeds of man, and who rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked justly. Both faiths believe that there is life after death, and both are messianic, believing in the coming of a savior at the end of days. Both faiths are very action-oriented, with religious acts and rituals mandated by God that should be performed routinely and correctly. Christianity, on the other hand, is more about faith and feeling in the heart. Both faiths (Judaism & Islam) describe in detail how a righteous life should be conducted on a daily basis from the time of birth to one’s death, in accordance with God’s mandates. While Jesus himself was born into a Jewish household and Jewish tradition and followed these rules, the Christians led by Saint Paul abandoned these rules claiming that the coming of Jesus meant loss of validity of the Jewish laws. The very elaborate and intricate system of laws and jurisprudence is called “Halakha” in Judaism and “Sharia” in Islam. Both are paths for a believer to reaffirm his/her covenant with the creator. For both faiths, the letter of the law is as important as its spirit. Both legal systems go into detail of how one should conduct his/her daily living matters at a personal and community level, and in relation to God. There are permissible (Kosher or Halal) and impermissible foods, specific ways to sacrifice animals for human consumption, prescribed daily prayers and rules on washing before prayers, rules about place of prayer, prescribed fasting at specific times, rules on spousal relationship, laws on inheritance, marriage, divorce, child custody, adultery, financial conflicts, stealing, treason, rituals after birth, circumcision of male offspring, and rituals at burial of the dead. 

Scholars of both faiths spend tremendous time extracting these legal codes from the sacred text (the Torah and the Quran) and the oral commentaries (the Talmud and the Hadith books), and pass judicial treatises. In both faiths, learning about religious and divine laws is a form of prayer and worship, and a fulltime occupation for religious scholars and leaders (rabbis and ulema). These religious scholars act as interpreters of the law for their communities in religious matters and do not have any liturgical role, as in the case of Christian priests, since in both Judaism and Islam, the believers directly pray to God, with no need for intermediaries. They also served as judges and arbitrators in community conflicts. In both faiths there has been emphasis on memorization of the sacred text in early childhood. Over time, the synagogues and the mosques that used to serve as the community centers, courts of law and centers of higher education, became devoted exclusively to the study of religious legal matters to an extreme extend, and focused more on the past commentaries and oral traditions than their original sacred texts, i.e. the Torah and the Quran. 

Islam considers the Christians and the Jews as legitimate communities of believers in God. They are referred to in the Quran and the Hadith as “people of the Book” (Ahl al-Kitab), who have received divine guidance through two highly revered prophets, i.e., the prophet Moses and the prophet Jesus. The prophet Moses is mentioned 136 times and the Children of Israel (Banu Israel = children of Jacob) 43 times in the Quran. There are five major chapters in the Quran that are devoted significantly to the story of the prophet Moses and Banu Israel, namely the second chapter (Al-Baqara – The Cow), chapter 20 (Ta-Ha), chapter 26 (Ash-Shu’ara – The Poets), chapter 27 (An-Naml – The Ants), and chapter 28 (Al-Qasas – The Stories). And, over 16 verses in the Quran emphasize that the Quran has come to affirm the truth in the Bible and the Torah, and not to reject them, emphasizing their role in human guidance (Quran 5:46, 66, 68).1

The early interactions between Muslims and Jews were very positive. Mohammad considered them to be his natural allies and admired them as true monotheists. The earliest verses of the Quran were very sympathetic to the Jews. Unlike the Christians, Muslims did not view the Jews as deicides (killers of “God”) (the Quran claims that the Jews did not kill Jesus; Quran 4:157)2 and did not attribute evil to the Jews. The Quran did not present itself as the fulfillment of the Hebrew bible, but rather as a restoration of its original message. The Quran praises the prophet Moses, depicts Israelites as the recipients of divine favors, and in many of its verses glorifies the Hebrew prophets (Quran 6:85),3 and mentions God’s favors to the Children of Israel that made them excel among the nations of their time (Quran 2:47, 122).4

On the 11th year of Mohammad’s prophet hood (622CE), because of the heightened persecutions against the Muslims and an attempt to assassinate the prophet Mohammad in Mecca, and after repeated invitations from people of Yathrib (later named Medina), the prophet Mohammad, along with some 200 immigrants from Mecca (called the “Muhajerun”) fled to Yathrib (Medina). The event hallmarks the beginning of the Islamic calendar, al-Hijra. This was at the invitation of the people of Medina, who were comprised of 2 prominent rival Arab tribes (Aus & Khazraj), which had been in a seemingly never-ending perpetual fight for centuries. The prophet Mohammad was appointed as the governor, judge and arbitrator of this city. In Medina, along with the Muslim immigrants from Mecca (the “Muhajerun” = the emigrants) were the newly converts of Medina (the “Ansar” = the helpers), some remaining idol worshipers, some Christians, and 3 powerful Jewish tribes. In the very beginning, the prophet Mohammad drew a “social contract” known as the “Constitution of Medina” or “Medina Charter”, a kind of alliance or federation among the prevailing communities in Medina. It upheld a peaceful coexistence between the Muslims, Christians, Jews and other city dwellers in a new, inclusive concept of Umma (community of the citizens), granting them freedom of religious thought and practices.

It was a formal agreement guaranteeing interfaith, multicultural coexistence, including articles emphasizing strategic cooperation in the defense of the city, and prohibiting any alliance with the outside enemies. It also declared that disputes would be referred to the prophet Mohammad for arbitration. It was acknowledged in the contract “the Jews will profess their religion, and the Muslims theirs,” or “to the Jews, their own expenses, and to the Muslims, theirs. They shall help one another in the event of any attack on the people covered by this document. There shall be sincere friendship and exchange of goods, good counsel, fair conduct and no act of treason between them.”

The prophet Mohammad expected the Jews of Medina to be his natural allies and accept his prophet hood, since his message was in alliance with their long-standing tradition of monotheism, confirming the truth that had been revealed to them from God in the Torah. However, as the conversion of the perpetually fighting pagan tribes of Medina to Islam united them in a Muslim Umma (community of the faithful) and the Muslims gained more power, tribal politics led the Jewish tribes of Medina to worry about this newly rising power. They refused to accept Mohammad’s prophet hood, and in the subsequent years that wars happened between the Meccan pagans (Quraysh tribes) and the Muslims of Medina the Jewish tribes secretly sided with the offending pagans. Moreover, on religious grounds the Jews were skeptical of a non-Hebrew prophet. While the prophet Mohammad had no prejudice against the Jews and considered his message as substantially the same as theirs, this initially peaceful coexistence soon ended. Around 2 years after Hijra (immigration of Muslims to Medina) the direction of prayer (qibla) of Muslims changed from Jerusalem to Mecca (624CE = 2AH), further emphasizing the identity of the new faith (Islam) as distinct from Judaism. 

The 3 powerful Jewish tribes in Medina were the Banu Qaynuqa, the Banu Nadir, and the Banu Qurayza. The Banu Qaynuqa were expelled from Medina after the Battle of Badr (624CE; 2AH), wherein the first armed confrontation Muslims decisively defeated the pagan forces of Mecca (Quraysh tribe). According to Ibn Ishaq (85-151AH),5 shortly after this victory, a Muslim woman was disrespected by a Jewish merchant in the Jewish quarter of goldsmiths, by stripping off her dress and head-cover. A Muslim man who came upon the resulting commotion killed the Jewish merchant. A Jewish mob of the Qaynuqa tribe killed the Muslim man in retaliation. This led to a great turmoil in the city. The prophet Mohammad gathered the Jews of the Banu Qaynuqa in the bazaar, warning them to stop escalating hostilities or they would face the same fate of the Meccan pagans in the Battle of Badr. He also asked the Jews to accept him as a prophet of God. The prophet Mohammad was mocked over his victory over the Meccan pagans, and the Battle of Badr was ridiculed and claimed as insignificant. He was further told that the Muslims would not dare to confront the Jews. The event led to a siege of the Qaynuqa Jewish fortresses and their expulsion from Medina.

Part two

The Banu Nadir tribe was expelled from Medina in 625 CE (3 AH) after an alleged attempt to assassinate the prophet Mohammad a few months after the Battle of Uhud. In that battle, an army of 3,000 men of Meccan pagans (Quraysh tribe) attacked a Muslim force in Medina (around 700 defending men), and despite early success in the battlefield, Muslims had very heavy losses.

The Banu Qurayza tribe was vanished after the Battle of Trench in 627 CE (5 AH), when a combined force of more than 10,000 men from the pagan Meccan Quraysh tribe and many of the Bedouin pagan tribes of the Arabian peninsula united forces under the Jewish leadership of Huyayy ibn Akhtab to conquer Medina and eradicate Muslims once and for all. After a month of an unsuccessful siege of Medina, behind a trench dug by the Muslims and adverse weather conditions, the pagans retreated with heavy losses back to Mecca. During the unsuccessful siege of Medina, the pagans secretly negotiated with the Jews of the Banu Qurayza to provide them with a safe passage to attack the city from behind. This was considered a violation of the peace treaty (the constitution of Medina). The prophet Mohammad ordered a siege of the Banu Qurayza fortresses. After their defeat, he asked them to appoint a judge of their choice to rule on the act of treason they had committed. The Banu Qurayza agreed to accept whatever verdict Sa’ad ibn Mua’dh (the leader of their former ally, the Aus tribe) would pass on them. Sa’ad, who himself was severely wounded in the Battle of Trench, invoked the Torah and declared treason as an unpardonable offense and sentenced all adult males be executed and the women and the children be taken as war captives (Quran33:26-27). However, some historians have disputed that the Banu Qurayza men were killed on quite such a large scale. It has been argued that ibn Ishaq gathered information from descendants of the Qurayza Jews, who embellished or manufactured the details of the incident.

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Question related to this article:
 
How can different faiths work together for understanding and harmony?

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The negative and derogatory verses in the Quran against the Jews (Quran 2:65, 5:60, 7:166) appeared after these events and were directed toward the wrongdoers among the Jews who disobeyed the laws of God as revealed in the Torah, who broke the Sabbath, and took usury, which was strictly prohibited for them and for the Muslims, and who were not grateful for the goods bestowed on them by God, and had altered their holy scripture (Quran 3:63, 71; 4:46, 160-161; 5:41-44, 63-64, 82; 6:91). In the Quran’s style of timely narratives, the references to the Jews and other groups were only to certain populations, and pertained to a certain period of history, and were devoid of racial and religious profiling. The Jewish people in general, and Judaism were not the targets of these remarks, and the criticisms dealt mainly with the wrong doers among the Jews. At the same time, the Quran gives legitimacy to the Jews and the Christians where it says that those among them who truly believe in the God, the Day of Judgment, and do good in this life, should have no fear on the Day of Judgment (Quran 2:62 & 5:69),10 and praises the high virtues among some of the followers of the Book (Christians and Jews) (Quran 3:113-115),11 and praises those Jews who guide others in the way of the truth and act justly (Quran 7:159).

As the people of the Book, the Christians and the Jews in the territories governed by Muslims enjoyed more protection than the followers of other faiths, and were given a minority status of “dhimmi” with rights to own property, practice their religion, maintain their places of worship, and be judged by their own judges according to their own jurisprudence, engage in commerce and operate their own schools, in exchange for a special poll tax called “Jizya”. Also, they would not be drafted into the army at wartime and they would receive all the protections that Muslims enjoyed as citizens of those communities. Moreover, they were exempt from the regular tax (Zakat) that Muslims had to pay to the government on a yearly basis.

It was at the time of the second righteous (Rashidun) caliph after the Prophet Mohammad’s death, Umar ibn al-Khattab (641 CE, 19 AH), that the Holy Land of Hijaz (Mecca and Medina and their surroundings) became forbidden to the non-Muslims, and they were only allowed in the Red Sea port of Jidda (Jeddah). He also set aside the Christian ban on the Jews and allowed them into Jerusalem for worship. At the same time some restrictive conditions were codified known as “Pact of Umar” that gave the Jews and the Christians a second-class citizen status. However, despite the dhimmi status, the Jews were still better off under the Muslim rule than under the Byzantine Christian rule.

While the dhimmi status indicated a second-class citizenship, it did not prevent a good working relationship and even friendship between the Muslims and the Jews. As individuals, the Jews reached high positions under various Muslim rulers, rabbinical courts were recognized to judge the Jews in their disputes, and the Jewish leaders were recognized to represent the Jewish communities.

After Ali ibn Abutaleb, the fourth righteous caliph after the Prophet Mohammad’s death, was assassinated in 661 CE (40 AH), Muawiya who was the Muslim ruler of Syria took over the entire Muslim empire and established the Umayyad dynasty. The Abbasids overthrew the Umayyads in 750 CE in a bloody revolt, notably by the support from the “mawali” (converted Iranians) lead by an Iranian general Abu Muslim Khorasani. The sole survivor of the Umayyad royal family, Prince Abd al-Rahman I fled to Spain that had been under Umayyad rule since 711 CE, and established a new dynasty at Cordoba, Spain. His descendent, Abd al-Rahman III proclaimed the caliphate of Cordoba in 929 CE independent from the Abbasid caliphate in Baghdad.

During the Abbasid caliphate in the Muslim Middle East, there was a gradual revival of the Persian (Iranian) culture and influence, and the old Arab aristocracy was partially replaced by a Muslim Iranian administration. The Iranians had an ancient civilization that had extensive interactions with the civilizations of India and China. The Iranian converts introduced advanced technologies in agriculture and irrigation, medicine, mathematics and astronomy, as well as a universal philosophy, and a tradition of efficient state administration. During the Abbasid dynasty, Baghdad was the capital city and seat of power in the Muslim world. It became a center for higher learning, arts and sciences, attracting people of knowledge, philosophers, architects, musicians, poets and intellectuals from all around the world. The books of past scientists and philosophers were actively translated from the Greek, Persian, Indian, and Chinese languages into Arabic, and soon the Arabic language became the means of conveying knowledge and new discoveries to the world, much as the English language is today. Muslim physicians and scientists of Persia (Iran) wrote the prefaces in Arabic for more widespread public use in the Islamic world.

The Islamic civilization flourished most in the medieval period 900 – ۱۲۰۰ CE in both Baghdad and Cordoba-Spain, as did the Jewish civilization in the Muslim territories. As the Arabic language became the state and intellectual language of the Middle East, North Africa and Muslim Spain, the Jews living in these territories adopted Arabic as a means of communication, and for several centuries most of the Jewish religious and secular intellectual production was in the Arabic written in Hebrew letters. Following the pioneering works of Rabbi Saadya Gaon in Iraq, some of the greatest Jewish classics by ibn Pakudah, Maimonides and Halevi were written in the Arabic language, which had become a legitimate tool of creation of scientific and philosophical discoveries and thoughts.

The region in Spain ruled by the Muslims, called al-Andalusia, became a center for intellectuals, poets, philosophers, and scientists of the time. The adoption of the Arabic language enabled the educated Jews to actively participate in the dominant culture, and to have access to all recent Muslim intellectual achievements in science and philosophy, as well as to the Greek intellectual heritage, which had been best preserved by the Muslim scholars. The Jews became active participants in a variety of professions, such as medicine, commerce, finance, and agriculture. The meticulous regard, which Muslim-linguists had for the Arabic grammar and style influenced Jewish linguists to study Hebrew and led to a renaissance in the Jewish poetry in Hebrew that paralleled the Arabic in meter and styles. During this period some of the greatest intellectual works in philosophy, law, grammar, and natural sciences appeared in both the Jewish and Muslim worlds. Adoption of the Arabic language and a Judeo-Arabic culture greatly facilitated assimilation of the Jews in Muslim countries, and their active participation in international trade in caravans linking east and west of the vast Muslim territories. This led to the emergence of a class of wealthy Jews in the courts of Muslim rulers who served as the bankers and financiers.

When Muslims conquered south of Spain in 711 CE, they were generally welcomed and assisted by the local Jews, and once conquered, the defense of Cordoba was left in the hands of the Jews under Muslim rule. By the time Umayyad rule was establish by Abd al-Rahman I in 755 CE, waves of Jewish immigrants escaped a century of persecution under the Christian rule in Europe, as well as the Jews from the Mediterranean region, and also from the Muslim territories from Morocco to Babylon joined the native Jewish communities there, and thus, a highly enriched-Sephardic Jewish culture was created by a mixture of these very diverse Jewish traditions from all over the world. The Jewish scholars from around the world were invited to Cordoba. During the reign of Abd al-Rahman III (912-961 CE) who proclaimed a Muslim Caliphate (independent from Baghdad) in Cordoba-Spain (929 CE), the Jews developed their own (independent of Baghdad) Jewish community, culture and Talmudic authority. Under the influence of the Muslim linguists and grammarians, a new generation of Hebrew linguists and grammarians emerged, who applied the same meticulousness that the Muslim linguists and scholars applied to the study of Arabic (the language of the Quran) to the study of Hebrew (the language of Torah). The Jewish poetry in Hebrew had a renaissance in style and meter in this period. Celebrated poets, such as Solomon ibn Gabriol, Yehuda, Halevi, Abraham and Moses ibn Ezra, as well as linguists, such as Dunash ben Labrat (innovator of Hebrew metric poetry), and Menahem ben Saruq (compiler of the first Hebrew dictionary) were some of the prominent figures of this period. Hasdai ibn Shaprut, the Jewish counselor in customs and foreign trade to Abd al-Rahman III, himself a poet and a man of letters, encouraged and supported Sephardic Jewish works in linguistics, religion, nature, politics and music.

In the fertile multicultural environment of al-Andulus, the Jewish and Muslim scholars made significant strides in astronomy, astrology, optics, geometry, medicine, philosophy, and literary works. They developed astrolabes to calculate latitudes and improved astronomical tables and instruments for navigation. Abraham ibn Ezra, a Jewish poet and scholar, wrote three books on arithmetic and number theory. Many books of science and philosophy were translated from the Greek into Arabic, Hebrew and Latin, and had a great influence on the intellectual movement and renaissance later in the rest of Europe.

The good fortune of the Jews in the Muslim Spain (al-Andalusia) that started in 711 peaked by mid 12th century when Jewish communities had flourished throughout Spain’s Islamic centers of power, Granada, Cordoba, Merida, Lucena, Saragossa, and Seville. The culture of Sephardic Judaism was shaped in this unique multicultural, diverse society where the Muslims, the Christians and the Jews lived together, interacted freely and created a culture full of vitality.

The culturally fertile and open society of al-Andalus ended in mid 12th century with the coming of Almohads (al-Muwahhidun = “the monotheists”, a Moroccan Berber Muslim movement founded in the 12th century) from north of Africa (Morocco) to help defend the Muslim Spain against the Spanish Christians who were pushing the Muslims southward. The whole of the Islamic Spain was under the rule of Almohads by 1172 CE. Their dominance continued till 1212 CE, after which they gradually lost territories to an alliance of Christian forces from north of Spain, so that the great Moorish cities of Cordova and Seville had fallen to the Christian forces by 1236 CE and 1248 CE, respectively. Jews were severely restricted under the Almohads’ reign and many chose to move northward to the newly conquered Christian lands, where they were temporarily treated better. Among those were Maimonides (aka Moses ben Maimon, Musa bin Maymun, Rambam) and his family, a great medieval Sephardic Jewish philosopher, legalist and physician, who became one of the most prolific and influential Torah scholars of the Middle Ages. They settled in Fez in Morocco, and later on in Fustat, Egypt around 1168 CE. While in Cairo, he composed his acclaimed 14-volume commentary on the Mishna Torah that still carries significant canonical authority as a codification of Talmudic law. He worked as a rabbi, physician, and philosopher in Morocco and Egypt. He was influenced by the earlier Muslim Scholars and philosophers such as Al-Farabi (Alpharabius, 872-950) and Avicenna (ibn Sina, 980–۱۰۳۷), and his contemporary Averroes (ibn Rushd, 1126-1198), and he in his turn became recognized as a prominent philosopher and polymath in both the Jewish and Islamic worlds. Gaining widespread recognition, he was appointed as court physician to Sultan Saladin and the Egypt royal family. Maimonides died in 1204 in Fustat, Egypt.

By the thirteenth century, the multicultural, humanistic Muslim societies gradually gave way to more rigid, orthodox and less tolerant societies, and the Islamic world declined in its intellectual productivity and frontiering, as did the Jewish communities within these territories. The Jewish cultural and intellectual creativity gradually shifted toward the Jewish communities in Europe. However, the Jews who stayed in the Muslim territories still had some protections, albeit as second-class citizens, in accordance with the pact of Umar.

The fate of the Jews in Spain turned around once again in 1492 CE when the Spanish Catholic royal couple Isabel I and Ferdinand II issued an edict that all the remaining Jews (hundreds of thousands) who had lived in Spain for generations should either convert to Christianity or be expelled from Spain. The Turkish Ottoman Sultan Bayazid II sent ships to Spain and rescued the Jews who were not only permitted, but were even encouraged to settle in the Ottoman territories. The Jews lived under relative calm under the Muslim Ottoman rulers. The relatively tolerant atmosphere of the Ottoman Empire encouraged large numbers of European Jews to migrate to Ottoman controlled territories. The newly arrived Jews contributed to the technological and scientific progress of the Ottoman Empire. One of their great contributions was development of the printing press in Turkey in 1493 CE, and within one year of their expulsion from Spain they established the first Hebrew press in Istanbul.

During the early Turkish conquest and expansion of the Muslim Ottoman Empire in the early 14th century, the Jews who were oppressed under the Christian Byzantine rule welcomed Muslims as their saviors. Throughout the 14th and 15th centuries the Jews who were expelled from many European lands, e.g., Hungary (1376 CE), France (1394 CE), Sicily (early 1400s), Bavaria (1470 CE), Spain (1492 CE), Italy (1537 CE), Bohemia (1542 CE), fled to and were welcomed in the Ottoman territories.

During the three centuries following their expulsion, the Jews in the Turkish Muslim Ottoman Empire ascended to high positions as court physicians (Hakim Yacoub, Moshe Hamon, Joseph Hamon, Gabriel Buenaventura, and Daniel Fonseca), and as foreign diplomats.

In the 19th century, with the decline of Turkish Ottoman power, and as a reaction to the growing European colonial powers, there was a rise in nationalistic fervor and religious radicalism that led to deterioration of the living conditions of the Jews in some Muslim countries.

Today, territorial and political disputes in the middle east have been increasingly characterized in religious terms, feeding the radicalized elements of all sides, to demonize “the others,” and have created the false notion that the Muslims and the Jews have been mortal enemies of each other throughout their histories, while, as shown in this communication, the rise and fall of civilization in both communities was interdependent upon one another and the Jews were historically better off in the Muslim lands than in the Christian lands.

(Thank you to Eshagh Shaoul for sending this article to CPNN)

Muslim World League, Patriarchate of Moscow sign cooperation deal

. TOLERANCE & SOLIDARITY

An article from Arab News

MOSCOW: The Muslim World League (MWL) and the Patriarchate of Moscow and All Russia signed on Wednesday an agreement to promote interreligious and intercultural dialogue, as well as a culture of peace and constructive coexistence.


Muslim World League Secretary-General Dr. Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa meets Patriarchate of Moscow and All Russia Kirill I. (SPA)

The agreement, which also rejects all forms of extremism and hatred, was co-signed in Moscow by the MWL’s undersecretary of relations and communication, and the head of the Department for External Church Relations.

It was signed in the presence of MWL Secretary-General Dr. Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa and Patriarch Kirill I.

The agreement reflects the two sides’ belief in the importance of interreligious dialogue and the role of religious institutions in resolving international conflicts, as well as the desire of Muslims and Christians to promote peaceful and constructive coexistence.

Al-Issa and Kirill I held a historic summit on Wednesday at the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow.

It is considered the largest independent Eastern Orthodox Church, with more than 250 million followers.

The summit, attended by senior religious leaders, included fruitful discussions on issues of mutual interest.

Kirill I said he was “very happy” with Al-Issa’s visit to Russia, noting the significant and enlightened role of the MWL.

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Question related to this article:
 
How can different faiths work together for understanding and harmony?

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“You’re helping many needy people in Asia and Africa, and this is the subject of our deep concern and appreciation,” the patriarch added.

“Owing to your personal contribution to the MWL’s activities, the league has become well-known in the Christian world, which appreciates these remarkable activities,” he said.

“The Orthodox Church has a great network of relations with Islamic societies and communities, and there’s communication with Muslims in our country. The history of Russia has never seen wars or conflicts with Muslims,” Kirill I added.

“Since Orthodox Christians and Muslims belong to the Eastern civilization, we share many commonalities. My job … has made this fact very clear to me.”

Kirill I underscored the Russian people’s unity regardless of religion, sect or ethnicity. “Russia can serve as an example for countries and representatives of faiths and sects,” he said.

Al-Issa said: “I’m happy to visit the Russian Orthodox Church and to meet with His Holiness Patriarch Kirill I, who is known for his outstanding efforts in promoting religious harmony and coexistence as well as love and tolerance.”

Al-Issa added. “We in the MWL, and on behalf of all Muslim people, appreciate the humanitarian and moral efforts of the Orthodox Church, and value its fair feelings toward Islam.”

He said: “We appreciate your describing terrorism as having no religion and stating that Islam … has nothing to do with terrorism.”

He added: “I’ve met with a number of Muslims, especially Muslim scholars in Russia, and they hold great esteem for the Orthodox Church for its efforts to preserve religious harmony, which are appreciated historic efforts.”

Al-Issa said: “The commonalities we share are many, especially the convergence of Eastern culture with its human and moral values.”

He said: “There won’t be a cultural shock between us because we belong to one Eastern culture and have several humanitarian goals.”

Al-Issa said: “With your wisdom, we can promote religious and ethnic cooperation. We, in the Muslim world, believe in your great role and are sure of its importance and impact.”

EDUCATION: Imagine programme helping to reconcile divided Cyprus

. TOLERANCE & SOLIDARITY .

An article from Financial Mirror

Educational programme “Imagine” which addresses primary, lower and upper secondary and vocational schools managed to bring together 3665 students and 397 teachers from more than a 100 Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot schools from across Cyprus in the last two academic years.

The Bi-communal Technical Committee on Education, which was established after the agreement between the two leaders, Nicos Anastasiades and Mustafa Akinci, in December 2015, continues its efforts to implement confidence-building measures in schools of the two educational systems and promote contact and co-operation between students and educators from the two communities.

Also, a new initiative to advance the programme was introduced this academic year that includes island-wide study visits.

Study visits are designed in a way to provide students with an opportunity to collaborate with each other and integrate new perspectives with cultural heritage environments to enhance learning initiatives.

A total of 150 students from 3 Turkish Cypriot and 3 Greek Cypriot schools joined the pilot phase of the study visit initiative ‘Learning from Nicosia’ that took place in both parts of the Nicosia walled city.

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Question related to this article:

Solidarity across national borders, What are some good examples?>

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Another new initiative to advance the efforts of the committee, training of teachers, was introduced this academic year.

The overall aim of the teacher training is to help increase contact and cooperation between teachers of the two communities in Cyprus, based on a holistic understanding of developing their knowledge, skills and attitudes on education for a culture of peace and non-violence.

A total of ten mono-communal training sessions took place with the participation of 254 teachers from all districts of Cyprus and two bi-communal training sessions by international experts took place with the participation of 50 Greek Cypriot and 50 Turkish Cypriot teachers.

“Imagine”, taking place under the auspices of the Bi-Communal Technical Committee of Education and implemented by the Association for Historical Dialogue and Research (AHDR) and the Home for Cooperation (H4C) with the support of the Federal Foreign Office of Germany and the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus has just successfully completed the second year on June 21.

Grounded in a holistic understanding of a culture of peace and non-violence, the programme is being implemented in two stages: in the first stage, experienced trainers visit the schools of participating students and teachers in both communities to facilitate activities that deal with stereotypes, extremism and intolerance, paving the way for voluntary bi-communal contact at the Home for Cooperation (H4C).

Then, in the second stage, groups of students from the two communities, who wish to participate, are paired and meet in the buffer zone where they take part in either peace education workshops with the Association for Historical Dialogue and Research (AHDR) or sports activities with Peace Players International.
All teachers who have participated in “Imagine” were invited for a ceremony and were awarded certificates of participation.

Efforts of the technical committee on education and particularly the ‘Imagine’ peace education programme has received special praise by the UN Secretary-General in his latest Reports on the United Nations operation in Cyprus.

Conference of European Churches Peace Conference 2019

. . TOLERANCE AND SOLIDARITY . .

An announcement from the Conference of European Churches

CEC [Conference of European Churches] will be holding a Peace Conference from 10 to 12 September 2019 at the Institut Protestant de Théologie, Paris, France. 

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Question for this article

Religion: a barrier or a way to peace?, What makes it one or the other?

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The conference will be held as part of the CEC 60th anniversary this year, focusing on the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, identifying its legacies and the hard lessons learnt from the European and global past, and search for new and creative ways of peace building in the 21st Century.

This conference will also identify the current threats to peace in Europe and will articulate the challenges presented by the global experiences of the 21st century. In doing so, it will draw inspiration from the role and work of the Conference of European Churches as an ecumenical organisation engaged with peacebuilding, reconciliation and the healing of memories.

The 2019 Peace Conference will reflect on the contemporary world and identify a theological way of living and acting that can enable CEC and its Member Churches to engage faithfully and practically in transformation, healing and reconciliation.

For more information, contact Ms Charlie Belot.

Geneva: Conference on ‘Promoting Peace Together’ Promoting Human Fraternity and Harmonious Co-existence through Dialogue

. TOLERANCE & SOLIDARITY

An announcement from the World Council of Churches

The World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID) have jointly produced the document ‘Education for Peace in a Multi-religious World – A Christian Perspective’. The document aims to make a constructive contribution to peace-making and explores the vital role that education can play in cultivating a culture of peace.


Photo: Ivars Kupcis/WCC

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Question related to this article:
 
How can different faiths work together for understanding and harmony?

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The [conference] will focus on two historic documents related to peace-making, namely the document on ‘Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together’ jointly signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in Abu Dhabi in February, 2019, and  ‘Education for Peace, in a Multi-religious World: A Christian Perspective’ – jointly prepared by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID) and the World Council of Churches, which will be officially launched at the end of the event.

The WCC office of Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation (WCC-IRDC) and PCID have a very long tradition of undertaking joint projects with focus in peacebuilding, education and harmonious co-existence in a multi-religious world.
 
WHEN: 21st May 2019, 14:00 to 17:00

WHERE: The Ecumenical Centre, Geneva

For further information, please contact: (Rev. Dr Peniel Rajkumar) peniel.rajkumar@wcc-coe.org

Detailed Program will follow

 

 Haiti – Dominican Republic : “For a culture of peace at the binational level”, theme of the 8th edition (2019) of the week of the diaspora

. TOLERANCE & SOLIDARITY .

An article from Alterpresse (translation by CPNN)

The 8th edition of the week of the diaspora takes place, from Monday 22 to Sunday 28 April 2019, in the Dominican Republic, around the theme “For a culture of peace at the binational level,” says AlterRadio Edwin Paraison, executive director of the Zile Foundation.

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(Click here for the original artile in French.)

Question related to this article:

Solidarity across national borders, What are some good examples?>

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The activities will begin in the afternoon of Monday, April 22, 2019, in the presence of representatives of the Haitian and Dominican authorities, among others.

A craft exhibition takes place on Tuesday, April 23, 2019, in the heart of tourist Santo Domingo.among the activities announced.

Among the activities announced are the “diaspora” awards, the organization of a baseball game in San Pedro de Macoris (Eastern Dominican Republic), between a Haitian team and another Dominican, and the holding of an ecumenical ceremony.

The university “Acción pro educación y cultura” (Apec) will host the academic activities, with two conferences on binational tourism and Haitian-Dominican relations, as well as a workshop of coaching, personal motivation and community leadership, according to the Espacinsular website.

The 8th edition of Diaspora Week aims to strengthen ties between the two peoples and promote cultural, tourist and commercial exchanges.

April 20 is the date chosen in Haiti to mark the national day of the diaspora.