A group of 60 Muslim, Jewish, and Christian leaders in Boston, USA, have issued a joint statement calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, asserting their common humanity and recognising the intense pain of the conflict.
In a rare acknowledgment of the “wide range of deeply-held beliefs, and intensely-felt narratives on all sides,” the statement recognizes “the legitimate needs of all peoples, including all those living in the Middle East, for dignity, peace, safety and security – regardless of religion, race, or national origin.”
“In the most difficult of times we are prepared to stand shoulder to shoulder and stretch out our hands to each other,” states Dr Abdul Cader Asmal, “in the hopes that others will see that this can be done.”
"This conflict causes me, and members of my community, great anguish for the suffering of Israelis and the destruction of Palestinians. I do not want, however, to stand in a protest line that divides the Jewish community, or that pits Jews against Muslims here in Boston,” says Rabbi Barbara Penzner. “If we can’t talk to each other here in Boston, where can we talk.”
At a time when demonstrations and counter demonstrations threaten to undermine years of efforts to build bridges between local faith communities, the statement concludes, “Through this joint statement we affirm our commitment to engage with one another, even, and especially, during times of great stress. We also affirm our common humanity and our common belief – as Jews, Muslims and Christians - that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must cease…”
“Those who signed this declaration showed that, in time of painful crisis, they did not retreat into their corners but turned to each other,” reflects Reverend Ray Helmick.
The group notes that this is not an organizational effort. “We are simply starting a process that will offer everyone who wants an opportunity to sign on, to do something, for the sake of humanity,” explains Dr. David Gordis, former President of Hebrew College. “There are different narratives to describe the tragedy, but we must learn to hear competing narratives as well as our own, and we need to stand together, Jews, Christians and Muslims, for reconciliation and peace.”
Similarly, Bilal Kaleem, Executive Director of the Muslim American Society notes, “We must continue to work together on the numerous local issues that we share in common while recognizing that many in our communities have differences of opinion and feel quite pained about events in Palestine and Israel. It is this commitment to ongoing relationship and acknowledging common concerns that this statement highlights."
Adds Rodney Petersen, Executive Director of the Boston Theological Institute, "This Declaration bears witness to our common humanity, whether Jewish, Christian, Muslim or otherwise defined at a time of profound tragedy for all parties involved."
A silent vigil centred around the joint statement is planned for Tuesday 13 January 2009, 5:30-6:30pm at Park Street Station in downtown Boston.