Israel is in a state of political upheaval with this week’s elections. It’s unclear whether Benjamin Netanyahu will hold control and form a government or if his time as prime minister has come to an end.
The country he has led for the last decade continues to be the center of international conflict and political strife, including here in the United States. But some religious leaders are stepping up to try to promote peace and understanding between people of different faiths, ethnicities and political leanings.
Thursday night, Churches for Middle East Peace will host the second of two events in Michigan titled “Pilgrimage to Peace.” It’s part of a 10 day tour of American cities to promote dialogue across religious, political and cultural divides.
“I see dialogue as a way to push back, I see dialogue as a form of social justice” – Aziz Abu Sarah, Palestinian peace activist
Speakers will address how peace can be possible in Israel and Palestine, how religious leaders can help and how we can all move forward to find common ground in otherwise polarizing discussions.
“The problem I find in my work is there is very little information. When people travel to Israel or Palestine, they tend to stick with one group and so they [only] get one narrative,” says Palestinian peace activist Aziz Abu Sarah, who’s also a journalist, entrepreneur and politician on Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson. Abu Sarah owns a tour company in Israel that does “multi-narrative” tours in the area.
“I see dialogue as a way to push back, I see dialogue as a form of social justice,” he continues.
“Dialogue is a critical component but when you talk about the injustices, there are grave injustices happening in the region and they are not unilateral,” says Dr. Mae Elise Cannon, executive director of Churches for Middle East Peace in Washington D.C.
Religious leaders say these conversations are especially important as leadership changes in Israel.
“Sometimes the politicians get in the way,” says Rabbi Dr. Daniel Roth, an Israeli citizen and director of the Mosaica Center’s Religious Peace Initiative. “But we have been working for the last 20 years at our initiative in engaging the most radical, most influential, most conservative Islamic leaders and religious Zionist leaders on both sides.”