Following the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last month, Muslim leaders and Israeli rabbis across the Middle East are coming together and working to keep the peace.
While violent clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian protesters have left at least a dozen Palestinians dead and hundreds more injured, together, these religious scholars and community leaders are advocating for non-violent ways to bring peace and security to the region.
This self-proclaimed “religious peace network” has been operating since the early 1990s. In 2002, several Holy Land religious leaders and the Archbishop Canterbury were joined together by the senior Egyptian mufti Mohammed Sayed Tantawi to sign the Alexandria Declaration, which details a shared religious doctrine for non-violence. Today, the network of religious leaders has grown and reaches across the the Middle East.
The network brings to light a growing understanding of the importance of interfaith connections for the security of the region. Instead of just looking towards politicians to create avenues to build peace, people are beginning to see the importance of religious leaders as essential to forward movement toward security and peace.
In the aftermath of President Trump’s announcement, the network’s members have been tirelessly working to convince individuals and communities to avoid violence across the region.
However, keeping the peace is challenging, especially at Jerusalem’s holy site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Haram Al Sharif.
The Jerusalem rabbi Michael Melchior, who co-founded the religious alliance and works with ALLMEP member The Citizens’ Accord Forum (which focuses on building a shared society in a sustainable democracy in Israel) says the network is “always on guard”, as the holy site is “nuclear”.
While violence at the site peaked in July, leaving several people dead on both sides, Melchior said to the Art Newspaper that the outcome would have been worse if the network had not intervened, stating that extremists “who wanted to create a world war, a clash of civilizations, would have had thousands of people killed…we were three minutes away from that happening. I had many calls from the chiefs of police. We negotiated the situation before the whole Middle East went up in flames.”
Until there is true and sound peace and security across the region, the network is working to step in to fill the holes left by failed political efforts and bring about understanding between the different faiths.
In a statement to the Art Newspaper, the Israeli lawyer Daniel Seidemann, who is a Jerusalem expert that advises policymakers said:
I don’t think anybody is considering turning over the political processes to faith communities or giving religious leaders a formal place at the negotiating table…there is, however, a greater awareness that failing to address the faith dimension of this conflict has grave ramifications, creating flawed political processes, undermining the integrity of the city and potentially destabilising it.
Photo Credit: The Art Newspaper
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