Thoughts on Engagement
Chairman Emeritus, Intercultural Journeys
I grew up on the Arab side of the Arab-Israeli conflict. As I came to understand both sides, my feelings have indeed evolved into feelings of profound grief . . . grief that so much hatred, misunderstanding and harm is occurring between two peoples who share so much common history.
Each side has a litany of complaints about the other . . . each side sees itself as a victim of the others aggression. Each dwells on the errors and sins of the other, looking for any reason to justify hateful feelings, or to further demonize the other side. At the same time, each ignores all that is positive and redeeming with the other, and the long shared history.
Judaism, Christianity and Islam all originated in the cradle of civilization with shared languages, shared roots and shared principles. The Arabic word for compassion is "rahma." It is very similar in Hebrew. The words for peace are Salaam and Sholom. So much in common, yet the conflicts continue.
There are those who fault our religions for the conflicts between us. Religion can be a source of conflict and a dividing force only if we allow it to be so. Our beliefs can be a source of great inspiration and can be a positive force in our lives. The challenge for all of us is to learn to embrace our beliefs, to live our principles, yet reject all tendencies for religious exclusivity and intolerance of others. The challenge is for caring people of all faiths to understand the deeper meanings in our sacred teachings that allow for the growth of respect and compassion for people of all faiths
While we may feel the challenges are too great, we must find a way. We owe it to ourselves and to our children. As Margaret Meade said: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world … indeed it is the only thing that ever has! "
Let us work with all of our strength to embrace a vision of peace, to truly open our hearts and find the courage and compassion to move beyond the past. Let us journey together, step by step, away from a cycle of violence and pain, down a path of reconciliation, towards building mutual respect, tolerance, and eventually peace for all.
When you seek to cross borders you open yourself and others to a new realm of possibilities, new dreams to be explored, new friendships to be made. Taking this adventurous step can be exhilarating, well met and appreciated. It can also be met with fear, distrust, anger and even reproach. Intercultural Journeys uses artistic endeavors and inspiring discussions to cross borders - between nations and between people.