On the backdrop of the recent mosque torching in the West Bank village of Yasuf, rabbis, priests, and Muslim clerics participated last week in an international conference dealing with the promotion of ideas for peace among all three monotheistic religions.
Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger arrived at the convention after a visit to the village of Yasuf, where he condemned the attack on the mosque. The rabbi said: "for the first time in my life I felt good and safe although those guarding me were Palestinian security officers. I told them we object to attacks on sacred places of all religions."
Among the participants at the conference were also Secretary General of the Council of Europe Walter Shwimmer, head of the Sufi Muslim Council in Britain Haras Rafiq and many other distinguished religious leaders.
During the conference, participants discussed ways to promote peace and mutual human respect, which is one of the cornerstones in all three monotheistic religions. They also suggested ideas by which to promote this mutual respect, especially during times of increased violence and intolerance between religions.
Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, late King Hussein's brother, sent a recorded message in which he called religious leaders to spread awareness to the importance of an interfaith dialogue, and to "rise above culture and politics in order to influence culture with concepts of participation, civil freedom and self respect for all the creatures of creation."
The prince mentioned that we are all "the children of the same creator", and suggested to develop a new concept of global awareness not only to matters of economics, but also to spirituality and conceptuality.
He further warned against "losing our children to hatred instead of educating them to peace."
The prince also added that there is a need in mutual recognition and "safeguarding holy places all over the world – Jerusalem, Mecca and Rome."
Rabbi Michael Melchior took the opportunity to explain that there is nothing in religion that prohibits giving up territory. "One of the reasons negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians failed is the fact the negotiations were conducted in a secular fashion," Melchior said.
Professor Asher Maoz, who organized the conference, called the situation "ironic, even tragic – because all monotheistic religions emphasize values of peace, respect and brotherhood, yet they are responsible for more wars and suffering than any other ideology.
What is lacking is interfaith connection and dialogue," said Maoz.
The conference was initiated and organized by the Peres Academic Center in cooperation with the Foreign Ministry's department of religious affairs, headed by Bahij Mansour.