Summary

  • The events of 9/11 and after have made painfully clear the need for improved understanding among Christians, Muslims, and Jews.
  • Participants in the meeting advocated that interfaith dialogue be conducted at all levels of religious hierarchies and across all segments of religious communities.
  • It can be enormously valuable for persons of each religious community to hear members of the other communities confess the problems and shortcomings that that community is experiencing. Communication of humility and self-criticism can go a long way toward healing, understanding, and mutual respect.
  • There is need to develop programs for interfaith reading of sacred texts to educate, inform, and deepen understanding of one another.
  • There is need to develop shared mourning processes surrounding death, destruction, and injustice, particularly in relation to terrorism and acts of governmental oppression. More thought needs to be given to how to promote acts that express repentance and facilitate reconciliation and mutual forgiveness.
  • It is essential to recognize that there are narratives in all three religions that are pluralistic and peaceful, but that there are also exclusive narratives in each of these traditions.
  • Peaceful coexistence can be most effectively advanced by having activists in the three communities develop a common justice agenda to facilitate commitments across lines of religious division.
  • It might be feasible to form facilitation teams composed of representatives from the three faith traditions to intervene in situations of conflict and tension.
  • Participants asserted that diplomats need to recognize that religious peacemakers can be their allies in the promotion of peace and reconciliation.
  • Several participants argued that trust and peaceful coexistence do not come so much from mutual learning and sharing through dialogue as from action on the ground and policy change, particularly in relation to the Middle East.
  • Participants were concerned about widespread stereotyping of Islam and misunderstanding about the nature of the Islamic faith.
  • Many participants expressed strong views about the negative impact that the media has on interfaith relations. They believe that the excessive emphasis on the negative side of religion and actions of religious extremists generates interfaith fear and hostility. Greater media attention needs to be given to positive steps taken post 9/11 to reach out across religious boundaries.
  • Efforts should be made to develop teaching materials about the three faith traditions for use at various levels in the educational structure. For example, an anthology could be developed on the three Abrahamic traditions to be used in high schools. In addition, courses need to be developed on Abrahamic peacemaking, teaching how the three faith traditions understand and promote peace.
  • Building interfaith trust in the current climate of fear is both a challenging and urgent task.

About the Report

A major objective of the Religion and Peacemaking Initiative of the United States Institute of Peace is to promote greater interfaith tolerance internationally. As a means of developing proposals for action to enhance peaceful coexistence, particularly among Christians, Muslims, and Jews, the initiative convened two two-day interfaith trialogue meetings in July and October 2002. Twenty-one leaders from the three faith communities participated in these meetings and generated the recommendations contained in this report. We hope that these recommendations will be of value to both religious and secular institutions seeking to promote greater interfaith amity.

This report has been prepared by David Smock, director of the Religion and Peacemaking Initiative.

The views expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Institute of Peace, which does not advocate specific policies.

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