Interreligious Dialogue Message on Jerusalem: City of Peace?

From Origins, CNS documentary service
October 3,1996 Vol. 26: No.16

"Jerusalem is called to be the city of peace, but at the moment there is no peace.... There is a crisis of confidence that threatens to unravel the whole process, " said a seven-point message on Jerusalem adopted by Christian, Muslim and Jewish representatives to a meeting held Aug. 25-29 in Salonika, Greece.

The meeting was co-sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Inter religious Dialogue and the Vatican's Commission mission for Religious Relations With the Jews, the World Council of Churches and the Lutheran WorldFederation.

About 40 experts participated , most from Israel or Palestine. "Sustaining a conducive climate for negotiations toward peace is the commonresponsibility of Israelis and Palestinians," according to the message. "We encourage our two peoples, Israelis and Palestinians, and the three faith communities to develop a strategy of peace education that is based on justice and reconciliation," the message sage said.

It criticized the "collective and indiscriminate closure of Jerusalem " to Palestinians, insisting that other means exist to protect Israeli and Palestinian security. The message expressed concern that "Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem are under threat" and said that "confidence building requires that the Palestinian infrastructure be maintained. " Finally, the message urged "the government of
Israel and the Palestinian National Authority to regain the momentum to wardpeace. " The message follows.

A group of Jews, Christians and Muslims from Israel/Palestine and from other parts of the world gathered together under the auspices of the World Council of Churches, the Holy See's Commission for Religious Relations With the Jews, the Pontifical Council for Inter religious Dialogue and the Lutheran World Federation in Salonika, a city with a long history for Jews, Christians and Muslims. We exchanged views on the situation in Jerusalem as it has developed since our last meeting in Glion, Switzerland, in May 1993.


After a few days of intense conversations , we decided to convey the following message sage, which though objected to by some was agreed upon by the vast majority. Jerusalem is a city considered holy by the three monotheistic traditions. As was affirmed at Glion: "It is (the) one God who has shared with us the gift of Jerusalem so that we might share it with one another." In each faith, holiness as revealed and bestowed by God is reflected in standards darts of human behavior. It is through acts of justice
and mercy that we sanctify God's creation. . Conversely, when we violate these transcendent standards, especially when God's name is invoked to legitimize injustice, violence or callousness toward human suffering, we are desecrating what we profess to be sacred.

Jerusalem is a place of encounter between God and humanity and among human beings in their diversity. Jerusalem is called to be the city of peace, but at the moment there is no peace. Although the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians has been initiated, there is still a long way to. go before a just and lasting peace is achieved. There is a crisis of confidence that threatens to unravel the whole process. Both parties need to build trust by faithfully implementing past agreements and not predetermining the outcome of future negotiations over Jerusalem by changing the situation on the ground.

1. Violence, whether by individuals or a authorities, especially the taking of human life, must be denounced and rejected. Violence does not lead to peace and reconciliation, but to extremism and hatred.

2. The collective and indiscriminate closure of Jerusalem endangers the prospects for peace. We believe there are ways other than closure to reconcile Israelis' right to security and Palestinians' right to security and free movement in and out of Jerusalem. We are particularly pained when as a result of the closure people are denied access to their holy sites and places of worship, and their places of employment, education and health care.

3. Sustaining a conducive climate for no negotiations toward peace is the common response ability of Israelis and Palestinians. Human rights violations and acts of indignity and humiliation undermine the confidence necessary to progress toward a resolution of the disputes, which hold all of Jerusalem's
residents hostage to fear and hostility. In this regard we strongly urge the Israeli government not to confiscate land, build and expand settlements, demolish Palestinian homes or revoke Palestinian Jerusalemites' residency
rights.

4. Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem are under threat. Confidence building requires that the Palestinian infrastructure be maintained.

5- We urge our leaders to take immediate steps of confidence building in Jerusalem so that our peoples will not be frustrated but will retain their hope for peace.

6- We encourage our two people, Israelis and Palestinians, and the three faith communities to develop a strategy of peace education that is based on justice and reconciliation. Such education should engender respect for the identity, religious tradition and culture of the other. Peace education is effective when it is backed up by acts of concrete peace-making. Not only the formal education system, but also families, politicians, mass media, synagogues, churches and mosques should give this task of peace education a high priority so that animosity dividing people in Jerusalem will be overcome and the two peoples may live in reconciled security.

7- We urge the governement of Israel and the palestinian National Authority to regain the monumentum toward peace according to U.N. Resolution 242 and 338, the Declaration of Principles in 1993 and subsequent agreements in order that our peoples may enjoy their national and human rights as God meant it to be.

We are convinced that meetings such as ours contribute to the reconciliatory process and should continue with as broad a participation as possible, Joint action in the name of our Abrahamic heritages is essential to translate our principles into reality so that Jerusalem may be the paradigm of coexistence.