(BALTIMORE, May 17, 2021) At the Institute for Islamic, Christian, and Jewish Studies (ICJS), we envision an interreligious society in which dialogue replaces division, friendship overcomes fear, and education eradicates ignorance. What does our vision require us to do in the face of escalating violence between Israelis and Palestinians? We grieve the loss of life and weep with those who suffer. We condemn the violence, especially that committed within sacred spaces and against worshipers. We commit to resisting the seductive pull of division, fear, and ignorance.
Dialogue replaces division
ICJS recognizes that many Jewish and Muslim communities here in the United States are connected to this conflict. Silence around this issue advances neither justice nor peace. Speaking only with like-minded people further fuels division. Dialogue does not necessarily resolve our differences, nor does it excuse injustices. At its best, dialogue humanizes others, dismantling the biases and bigotries that fuel division. Now is a time for honest—and difficult—conversations. With humility and with courage, we must seek to encounter each other in our disagreements—to carefully listen and to honestly speak. We at ICJS strive to create a space where such conversations can occur; indeed, that is why we exist.
Friendship overcomes fear
ICJS recognizes that this is a fearful time. The violence is intensifying quickly with conflict on the streets of Jerusalem, Hamas rocket attacks in Israel, and Israeli military strikes in Gaza. Protests have turned to mob violence in cities across the region. As an interreligious dialogue organization in the United States, we call upon the American Jewish, Muslim, and Christian communities to reach out to one another and talk honestly about what they are afraid of right now, to get inside each other’s narratives and perspectives, and to rely on their interreligious friendships in this moment of fear and uncertainty.
Education eradicates ignorance
Around this conflict, opposing sides have few shared facts from which to begin a conversation. Even when there are seemingly shared facts, dialogue partners come up with radically different interpretations. Right now, we cannot afford to be ignorant of our disagreements. Rather, we need to explore the way communities different than our own are responding to unfolding events. Education that seeks to understand deep disagreement requires humility, patience, persistence, and real relationships. We cannot shy away from this moment; rather, we need to ask questions of each other. We need to listen and to learn; to speak and to sit with silence; to deeply disagree while not demonizing our interlocutor. Sometimes we cannot agree, but being ignorant of that disagreement helps no one and does not resolve conflict.
At ICJS, we are taking an important internal step by convening our board—comprised of Jews, Christians, and Muslims—to discuss the present conflict and our own differences. Our vision and our mission require us to do this, and we are taking this important step together. This is why ICJS exists—to promote resilient interreligious friendships, to dialogue about our differences, and to strive in co-learning together. At ICJS, we disagree strongly and passionately, but we strive to not have this disagreement lead to division. Rather, we see disagreement as part of the human condition that requires us to talk to one another.