For this year’s retreat we gathered together to discuss a very pertinent topic -“Religion & Violence”. Events overseas and here in the U.S. have pushed all of us to consider both our response to violence and our histories–especially as adherents to religious traditions–in perpetrating and being victims of violence. We first heard from Edina Lekovic from the Muslim Public Affairs Council on Islam and Violence. MPAC has participated in the White House task force on Counter Terrorism, and had much to share with us. Rabbi Aryeh Cohen of American Jewish University then spoke on Judaism and Violence, and Rev. Francisco Garcia of All Saints Church followed by speaking on Christianity and Violence. There was lots of discussion and connecting with old and new friends while continuing to build the interfaith community here in Los Angeles.
AFPI Statement on Recent Israel/Gaza Conflict – 11.21.12
We are grateful to God for the news of a cease fire and we pray that this cease fire will lead to a durable peace between Israel and Hamas.We are Jews, Muslims and Christians who have been meeting together for nearly two decades, harvesting the best and strongest values of our respective cultures and wedding them together to create programs and curricula for peacemaking. As such, we feel compelled to lend a different voice to counter the current military and militant expressions in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.We resist the nationalistic tendency to recoil into our own corners with typical displays of breast-beating and rejection of listening to the other side.
In the current crisis between Gaza and Israel, we have witnessed death and destruction of civilians – at least 150 Palestinians and 5 Israelis in this recent conflict. There is no excuse for the indiscriminate firing of rockets onto civilians, nor terrorism. Likewise there is no excuse for the military occupation of Palestinian territories and for the maintenance of a blockade of Gaza that collectively punishes and impoverishes all for the violence and aggressiveness of some. Fear and despair are responding to each other in this conflict, and actions are being taken not for the sake of any religion and not for the sake of humanity. It doesn’t matter who started the current violence or whose vision of history is utilized to try to rationalize it. It doesn’t matter who is more at fault, the only thing that matters now is how do we stop the killing and move away from this insanity and futility whose only definitive surety is that it will happen again…and again.
We believe that we represent peoples and civilizations and religions whose highest and best values are about justice and peace for all. The Torah commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Lev. 19:18), which Rabbi Akiva deemed to be the supreme ethic of the Jewish people. Hillel taught that we cannot be only for ourselves, that we must be equally for others or else we undermine our human potential (Avot 1:14).Jesus taught “blessed are the peacemakers,”and the Apostle Paul counsels “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (Phillipians 2:3).This consideration of others is grounded in the understanding that all people are created in the image of God.The Quran suggests “We have made you into nations and tribes, so that you may come to know one another”(49:13).The Quran also equates the taking of life unjustly with the killing of all humanity (5:32). Peacemaking, and living together in harmony, is central to all three of our traditions.
To both Hamas and the Israeli government we say, “Enough! Stop the violence! It only ensures more violence.”It is time to talk to our own people to remind them of our religious obligation for peacemaking rather than allow hate of the other to dictate the discourse. There is no other way forward than sincere and consistent negotiations aimed at producing a sovereign Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel. Neither side should leave the table until the work is done. This is the most valuable lesson we have learned from our trialogue of these many years: the temptations and excuses for refusing to talk are many, frequent and seductive. They must be resisted at all costs so that we can truly make peace and care about each other’s children as much as we care about our own.