interfaith relations

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There are important next steps being debated for what states can and should do to stop the current war, and set the stage for ending the current cycle of violence. That is not my subject. I thought recently that leaders are followers and followers are leaders, and neither knows it. The fact is that people and their individual initiatives have much more impact on the course of history than is acknowledged by government officials, by cynics, and by those too apathetic, too callous, or too fearful to act. If you are in that category, do not read forward. Just go back to Al Jazeera, Fox and CNN and choose a side. Or go back to Jon Stewart and have a good laugh.

Here is what is necessary, efforts that have worked before in history in changing the available information available to all parties so that more rational and more morally …

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Syria’s Christian Conundrum

by mgopin on June 8, 2012 · 6 comments

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by Hind Kabawat, CRDC Senior Research Analyst and Expert on Conflict Resolution

This article was originally published by CNN here.

One of the most perplexing aspects of the Syrian revolution is the deep ambivalence felt by so many of the country’s Christians when faced with the prospect of freedom after four decades of authoritarian dictatorship. Some Christians have enthusiastically embraced the prospect of democratic change and a more open civil society, but many have not.

As a Christian, this provokes a great deal of sadness in me and others who are committed to transforming Syria into an open, democratic, inclusive, secular and religiously tolerant society. But the problem is that many, if not most, Christians in Syria do not believe that this will be the outcome of changing the regime.

On the contrary, they believe the present regime — corrupt and repressive as it has been — is the …

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Just a few days ago was the longest night of the year. Another way of looking at is that this was night in which the tide of darkness began to turn back in favor of light. Bunched around this time are so many ancient holidays of lights and candles, of which Hanukah and Christmas are but two. Ancient rabbinic tradition suggests that the purpose of the small light at night is to teach that it takes only the light of one individual candle to illuminate the darkness of an entire room—or the world.

Peering at small lights at night, meditating on them, also has another interesting impact. It makes the blinding light of the morning sun feel almost miraculous. Indeed, many of the pre-monotheistic nighttime celebrations of light at this time of year are actually celebrations of the birth of light, and particularly sunlight. There is an inescapable reality to …

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Reflecting on 2010, it’s clear that racism in Israel has reared its ugly head. A recent poll published by the Israel Democracy Institute found that only 51 percent of Israelis support equal rights between Jews and Arabs, while 53 percent think the state should encourage Arabs to emigrate from the country. Thepoll also established that Jewish Israelis find the idea of living next to an Arab more troubling than any other minority, and that in the event of war, 33 percent of Israelis support the idea of putting Arabs into internment camps.

In the last few months, these findings were given concrete expression in a number of incidents. These include:

A religious ruling signed and endorsed by 50 state-appointed rabbis forbidding Jews from renting or selling apartments to non-Jews. “Racism originated in the Torah,” said Rabbi Yosef Scheinen, head of the Yeshiva in Ashdod and one of the endorsers …

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Qatar Airline, Bombs, and Me

by mgopin on November 17, 2010 · 5 comments

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I recently flew Qatar Airlines round trip for a lovely interfaith conference in Doha. I ended up, back and forth to Washington, spending a total of 27 hours in-flight within four days. Not long after I got back, Qatar Airlines was in the news as having been one of the Gulf passenger carriers that unwittingly transported a mail bomb from Yemen al Qaeda destined for a gay Jewish synagogue in Chicago.

This caused some strange sensations as a rabbi recently in the complete care of the same airline. I felt one of those moments of absolute contradiction, the contradiction between the way I was treated in the plane and the reality of cargoes headed for murder.

Before Qatar Airlines, I was going to write a sincere article about my evolution as a human sardine. I have been on planes traversing continents doing interfaith work for what seems like an eternity. …

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Recent sputterings of a peace process between Israel and Palestine, the termination of Israel’s settlement building freeze causing a demise of said peace process — again — has produced a loud, global yawn. What else is new in this endless conflict? Negotiations cannot succeed without a vision, and there is no widely shared vision of peace among these people that could truly spur their politicians forward.

The hardest part of building peace for the future is freeing oneself from the wounds of the past that create brutal behavior in the present. One way forward may be to suspend skepticism for just a moment, to free the mind to build a world of practical possibilities should peace be achieved. Armed with this imaginative exercise it might become easier to lobby for practical ways forward.

Let’s imagine the following: official creation of a state of Palestine on the West Bank and Gaza

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The hardest part of building peace for the future is freeing oneself from the wounds of war, the mutual recriminations of the present, the painful memories of a lost past, and the unreasonable fantasies of a world where one’s enemies magically disappear. Sometimes the way forward is to free the mind to build a different world, a world of practical possibilities should peace be achieved.

Let’s imagine the following: a full peace treaty between Israel and Palestine, official creation of a state of Palestine on the West Bank and Gaza, with East Jerusalem as its capital, a shared civil regime for the quarter mile of the Holy Basin in the Old City of Jerusalem that is overseen by Israeli and Palestinian Jews, Muslims and Christians, and a way for every Palestinian refugee camp’s residents to be awarded citizenship and compensation in a variety of countries including Palestine itself.

The first …

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It was three days before Rosh Hashanah, and I was predictably anxious about my identity, my life, about my family’s Jewish future. As a good and fractious Jew, I was somewhat ambivalent about which synagogue I would go to: The one I sometimes go to? The one I would never step foot in? The one that I really should create on my own, maybe?

This Rosh Hashanah was different for two reasons. My 87-year old mother, who lives alone 400 miles away in Boston, had pneumonia. So we were on our way to Boston, but I had to honor a commitment to my dear friend Yahya Hendi, who is an imam. He wanted the whole family, the whole world, it seems, but especially Jews and Christians, for an iftar, a very sacred celebration as a part of Ramadan. He wanted us all to share in every aspect of the evening, …

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Trying to figure out why I am always trying to clean up messes that I did not create, messes that I predicted. So here we go again with the dance of clashes that others crave. I will be on Al Hurra at 4 because there are demonstrations happening in response all over the world.

The Obama administration has said that it is concerned about the proposed burning of the Koran by a US church group.

On Tuesday, the White House said that it supported recent comments from General David Patraeus, the chief commander of US and Nato troops in Afghanistan, that the torching could put US troops in the country at risk.

“It puts our troops in harm’s way, any type of activity like  that that puts our troops in harm’s way would be a concern to this administration,” Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, said.

A Church group in

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Hello friends, I want to join Rabbi Arthur Waskow in calling on everyone to read from the Koran on September 11 as an act of solidarity with the Muslim community of the United States as they suffer the insult of the terrible act being committed on that day in Gainesville, Florida.

The best way to resist hatred is with love, humiliation with respect, ignorance with knowledge, alienation with friendship.

Reading from the books that some would burnBy Rabbi Arthur Waskow | 8/31/2010 Devoting Jewish Holidays to Peace Interreligious Relations Rosh HaShanah Yom KippurClick here to see a listing of all recent blog postsIn New York, speaking out for freedom and diversity might mean joining a vigil at 7:15 pm Friday evening September 10 at 51 Park Place [near the Park Place stop of the #2 or #3 subway], the location of the Muslim-rooted community/ cultural center that has been the

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