Category Archives: TOLERANCE & SOLIDARITY

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?

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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.

Vatican’s second conference on nonviolence renews hope for encyclical

TOLERANCE AND SOLIDARITY .

An article by Joshua J. McElwee in the National Catholic Reporter

Theologians, activists and bishops who took part in a Vatican conference earlier this month on the power of nonviolence to bring about social change are expressing hope that a future papal encyclical or teaching document will reexamine the Catholic Church’s teachings on war.   


Participants gather in Vatican City April 4 for a meeting, co-hosted by Pax Christi International and the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, on the power of nonviolence to bring about social change. (Pax Christi International/Johnny Zokovitch)

Participants in the April 4-5 meeting, co-hosted by Pax Christi International and the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, said the reflections shared by the about 80 attendees provided ample material for Pope Francis to consider for a possible encyclical.

“Nonviolent strategies should be the centerpiece to the church’s approach to issues of war and peace and violence,” San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy, one of the event’s participants, told NCR.

Although McElroy said he was unsure whether Francis would want to devote an encyclical to the issue, he said it “would be helpful if the magisterium and the pope move toward a much fuller mainstreaming of the concept of nonviolence as an active force in the world as the central Christian response to elements of armed conflict and military engagement.”

Marie Dennis, co-president of Pax Christi, said that a papal encyclical on nonviolence would bring the concept “from the periphery of Catholic thought on war and peace to the center, mainstreaming nonviolence as a spirituality, lifestyle, a program of societal action and a universal ethic.”

“It would contribute in important ways to a culture of nonviolence and integral peace for the church and the world,” she said.

The April event was the second of its kind, following a 2016 meeting at the Vatican that reevaluated the church’s long-held teachings on just war theory, a tradition that uses a series of criteria to evaluate whether use of violence can be considered morally justifiable.

A number of theologians have criticized continued use of the theory in modern times, saying that both the powerful capabilities of modern weapons and evidence of the effectiveness of nonviolent campaigns make it outdated.

The participants of the earlier event had called on Francis to consider writing an encyclical on the issue. They declared in a final statement: “There is no ‘just war.’ ”

Judy Coode, who helped organize the April 2019 meeting as coordinator of Pax Christi’s Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, said the event was intended to “deepen a conversation on the church’s role in teaching and promoting nonviolence.”

Coode said her organization had been preparing the conference for about a year, tasking five working groups around the world to write papers on specific aspects of nonviolence that would be discussed at the gathering.

Among those taking part in the meeting were officials with the Vatican dicastery, including Cardinal Peter Turkson, representatives of various bishops’ conferences, Catholic organizations such as Caritas Internationalis, nonviolence activists from various conflict zones, and military chaplains.

Also present for the discussions were Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, New Jersey; Archbishop John Baptist Odama of Gulu, Uganda; and Archbishop José Luis Azuaje of Maracaibo, Venezuela, president of his country’s national conference. Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich could not attend, but sent a letter to the participants.

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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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McElroy described the presentations at the two-day event as “a very poignant series of engagements with tremendously haunting and tragic and yet hopeful situations around the world, where violence has been effectively combated and deterred by nonviolent action.”

“Many people were discussing how, on the ground, adopting a stance of nonviolence toward what would usually be thought of as situations where violence was the answer had in fact resulted in better, more humane, longer-lasting, [and] more just outcomes,” he said.

Dennis noted that many of the participants had come from communities experiencing violence and spoke about nonviolence “as a spirituality, a distinct virtue, a way of life rooted in the Gospel, and a potentially powerful tool for transforming violent situations.”

“It was very encouraging to see such a diverse group of people with very different roles in the church and from different contexts and cultures fully engaged in articulating a way … to promote a paradigm shift in a violent world toward cultures of nonviolence and just peace,” she said.
Fr. Emmanuel Katongole, a native Ugandan who is a theologian at the University of Notre Dame and also took part in the meeting, suggested that Francis was already “ahead” of the event’s participants with his focus on nonviolence.

Katongole pointed to how the pope frequently speaks of the church as being like a field hospital in the midst of battle, and to Francis’ decision to focus his message for 2017’s World Day of Peace on nonviolence as “a style of politics for peace.”

“You can see that he is already moving in that direction; he is already in a way ahead of us,” said Katongole, whose work has focused on violence and reconciliation across Africa.

“We are not really proposing something new,” he said. “Pope Francis is already ahead of us in this call to nonviolence.”

Terrence Rynne, another conference participant, said he was impressed by the way the event brought in experts from various continents and by the involvement of the bishops present.

“That was the most striking part of it for me, that it was the global church present,” said Rynne, a theologian who is also an NCR board member. He likewise praised the role of Pax Christi’s Dennis, who helped Coode arrange all the details of the event with the Vatican dicastery.

Dennis, whose term co-leading the international organization is ending this summer after 12 years, was also praised by Fr. John Dear, another participant in the meeting.

“Over the years of this process, Marie Dennis has emerged as one of the most important and influential leaders right now in the global church,” said Dear, who is known for his extensive spiritual writings and peace activism.

“Her extraordinary leadership, along with the openness of the Vatican dicastery, I think, is going to bear tremendous good fruit for the global church,” he said.

Katongole said that during the meeting he was reflecting on the fact that the event was taking place near the 25th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, which was marked April 7.

He remembered speaking some years ago to a bishop from the country who noted that some Catholics had participated in the killing and said his greatest challenge was “forming people who can say no to killing.”

“For me, the Rwanda genocide is in the back of my mind, and the question of this bishop: How do we form Christians who can say no to killing?” said Katongole. “The call of the Gospel is a call to nonviolence as the way of God.”

He said that if Francis chose to write an encyclical on nonviolence it would “set a tone for the church” that would “free our imagination from the inevitability of war and violence.”

Katongole said he imagined that such an encyclical would contain reflections on places where nonviolent strategies have worked, calling them “stories of hope, where you can see this already in place.”

“It will be really an encyclical about hope,” he said. “I think Pope Francis more than any pope … is more in a position to make this clarion call.”

Churches in South Sudan promote “three pillars of peace”

TOLERANCE AND SOLIDARITY .

An article from the South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC) representative Bishop Isaiah Majok Dau spoke about how churches are spearheading dialogue in his country through what the Pentecostal Church leader describes as the “three pillars of peace”.   


Bishop Isaiah Majok Dau, presiding bishop of the Sudan Pentecostal Church. Photo: LWF/A. Danielsson

Changing the narrative of violence

Advocacy, Bishop Dau said, is “the first pillar of peace” in his country, with the goal of “changing the narrative of violence” among communities, families and political leaders. That advocacy work includes the vital task of engaging on social media with South Sudanese living outside the country, many of whom use hate speech to promote their political ideas.

The second pillar of peace, Dau continued, is providing “a neutral forum” where opposition leaders, or others who cannot come to the capital Juba for security reasons, have an opportunity to speak and share their concerns. The church serves as “a bridge between them, wherever there is contention between the government and other communities,” he said, explaining how opposition leader Riek Machar was able to communicate through this forum with the government when he was in exiled in South Africa. The bishop said he recently held talks with opposition leaders in Juba and had just returned from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, where he met with opposition politician, Thomas Cirrillo in order to press for dialogue and reconciliation.

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Question for this article

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

Can peace be achieved in South Sudan?

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The third pillar, Dau said, “is called peace and reconciliation” promoting forgiveness among communities in South Sudan that have been fragmented by conflict. These concepts are not included in the peace agreement, he said, so “we, as a church, want to be a bridge to reconcile communities, to speak to hearts and to renew their faith in each other in dialogue.”  

Learning “to talk, rather than take up guns”

The goal, he added, is “to create a culture of peace” so that people learn “to talk, rather than take up guns” and their disagreements over borders, land rights or cattle rustling are not resolved by resorting to violence. The framework that the SSCC has developed includes tools for trauma healing, economic empowerment and a correct use of resources, making it an invaluable asset for reaching out to the wider non-Christian community.

Questioned about how to make these tools available to remote grassroots communities, Dau said the church is present throughout the country and is “the only institution which can go where the government can’t go.” Even in “very rural areas like Jonglei State between the Murle and the Dinka” or between the “Turkana and the Karamojong in Uganda, we are the ones working through the grass roots on reconciliation,” he stressed.

“We base our message on hope,” the bishop concluded, telling people “the best is yet to come for South Sudan [so] don’t give up, because one day we will live in peace.” Quoting Jesus’ own message of peace from the New Testament, he said: “The gospel of hope is our biblical message and it comes out in all three pillars of peace.”

The Lutheran communion’s work among South Sudanese goes back to the 1980s. The LWF currently assists over 300,000 people inside the country and hundreds of thousands more who have sought refuge in neighboring Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda. Capacity building in human rights and advocacy both at the local and international levels targets both government institutions and civil society organizations.

Bishop Isaiah Majok  Dau was one of the panelists at a side event organized by the LWF during the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council.