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Building bridges:

Muslims, Jews, Christians

join forces for peace

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The enthusiastic exchange of calling cards and making sure caterers provided kosher and halal food are small yet critical signs of a successful interfaith conference.
Jewish, Muslim, and Christian leaders came together in Rome to share success stories and break bread together at a day-long meeting....
...Leaders from all three monotheistic religions were reaching outward toward one another in an urgent call for increased interfaith cooperation to bring peace and hope to the world. The interfaith meeting, “Building Bridges of Hope: Success Stories and Strategies for Interfaith Action,” was organized by the U.S. Embassy to the Vatican and held at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University Oct. 12.
Hillel Levine, founding president of the International Center for Conciliation in Boston, works with Arabs and Jews in Israel and said he emphasized the need for both sides to talk about their “pained memory.”
Bygones should not be bygones, he said, and the past should be dealt with in order to “siphon off the hatred” and transform shared suffering into a shared bond that leads to understanding and empathy, he said.
Melkite Archbishop Elias Chacour of Haifa, Israel, shared his memory of pain with conference participants.
As Palestinians, he and his family were forced from their homes after the creation of Israel and wandered along the Jordan River for months because even bordering Arab countries didn’t want to take in refugees, he said.
When tourists express their disappointment with the Israeli security wall, Archbishop Chacour said he tells them, “Do not try to destroy the wall, it’s too strong for you.”
He tells them, “I try to hide the wall with bridges” by creating connections of friendship and understanding between one Jew and one Arab at a time.
The archbishop turned to Levine who was seated next to him at the panel and said, “Convince your Jewish brothers that we are not your enemy. We will never be your enemy.”
The two men clasped hands warmly and later stood together holding one another’s hands as conference participants applauded. They only broke their grasp to fish out and exchange calling cards, building one more bridge over walls and troubled waters.

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