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Gaston Interfaith Trialogue speak on the Israeli-Gaza war

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Members of the Gaston Interfaith Trialogue have prepared a statement on the Israeli-Gaza War. With deep mutual respect, our member Jewish, Christian and Muslim faith communities expressed their shared belief in self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace. This statement reflects the more than 15-year relationship between these communities and their ongoing work to understand their religious similarities and differences.

Soon after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, members of the Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths in Gaston County established the Trialogue and began to explore each other’s holy texts, teachings, worship and traditions to deepen their understanding of the three Abrahamic religions. Today, as they continue to consider their similarities and differences, participants often state these conversations further their understanding of their own deeply held beliefs.

Members of the Trialogue Steering Committee developed the statement on the Israeli-Gaza War after discussing this situation and identifying common ground and shared aspirations.

Dr. Richard Boyce, a member of the steering committee, stated, “This is exceedingly difficult work, given the deep emotions surrounding this war. I deeply commend our Jewish, Muslim and Christian friends for tackling this challenging situation and reminding us that as children of God there are few callings higher than building peace.”

Rev. Joan Martin, another member of the steering committee, stated, “We are deeply grateful for our members’ open and honest conversations. No one will say this work is easy. It is not. At the same time, the resulting statement makes us proud of our relationships, which are a blessing to us all.”

Statement:

Not since 9/11, have our hearts been as troubled and our conversations as difficult as now. Following theattacks on Israel by Hamas, and the bombardment by Israel of Gaza, we are numb, yet called to speak. Thereare things we, as Christians, Jews, and Muslims, need to speak against, and things we need to speak for.

First, what we must speak against:

We speak against using these events to promote anti-Semitism. Israel has a right to self-defense and aresponsibility to protect all its citizens – Jewish, Muslim and Christian. The Israeli government is not to beequated with all Jews, nor are Jews to be equated with the Israeli government.

We speak against using these events to promote Islamophobia. The Palestinian people both Muslim andChristian have legitimate aspirations. All Palestinians are not to be equated with any terrorist organization orany other political/military group.

We speak against using these events to pit Jews against Muslims, and Muslims against Jews. Through thecenturies, Jews and Muslims have often made sacrifices to protect each other. The fight over boundaries andterritories in the Middle East is not an excuse for any faith group to promote itself over others.We therefore are called to speak out for the following:

The right of all civilians to live in peace. All communities must reject extremists in their midst.And no group or nation should deliberately target civilians – to protect itself, or to promote its security orcause.

The need for proportionality and restraint in warfare. War is always a last resort in the cause of peace andjustice. Collateral damage and civilian casualties must always be considered and avoided if possible. The needfor an immediate cease-fire to attend to humanitarian needs, should never be taken off the table, by anyparty.

The necessity for a long-term solution. The division of territories in the Middle East has been a continuoussource of discord for all parties – Jews, Muslims, and Christians. All residents of this area should be able to livein peace and worship as people of faith and recognize the rights of each to exist. Whether through a TwoState Solution, a Single State, or other options, we need all the nations of the world to work together to find away forward. Perhaps coming together in empathy and respect in this crisis is what the world needs toachieve a lasting peace there and here at home.

The members of our faith communities are determined to respond to this crisis not with name-calling anddivision, but with prayer, heartbreak and honest discussion. The greatest tragedy would be to allow currentevents to destroy the good work and goodwill our communities have built. May this time of testing see thebonds that unite us only strengthened, and the faith and hope we share only deepened – as we all seek to liveour lives as God’s children, until God’s peaceable kingdom fully comes.

Gaston Interfaith Trialogue Steering Committee:

Rev. Dr. Richard Boyce, Mark Epstein, William Gross, Sam Shoukry, Cindy Buckley, Steven Fuller, Rafat Hamam, Chuck Duncan, Linda Gibbons, Rev. Dr. Joan Martin

Israel and Gaza fighting is part of a complex, bitter conflict that reaches back to the first world war.

Israel and Gaza fighting is part of a complex, bitter conflict that reaches back to the first world war.

This article originally appeared on The Gaston Gazette: Gaston Interfaith Trialogue speak on the Israeli-Gaza War

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