Finding Common Ground Between Jews, Muslims, And Christians
“We are equal individuals worshiping one God” has been the main idea of the conference 9/11: Peace through the Reconciliation of Our Holy Books celebrated on the 21st anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. In this meeting, there have been speakers from all three Abrahamic religions: Islam, Christianity, and Judaism and they debated how to come together and get past any differences there might be between the faiths.
Author, publisher, historian, filmmaker, and doctorate Samira Saidi highlighted that there is a link that unites people from the three religions which is mainly “a message of peace”. In fact, one of the main Quran’s principles is the respect other communities’ rights without discrimination. As she worded it, the prophet Mohamed was sent to give “the whole world an image of a human race: there is no one superior”.
Through her years of research, she has got to understand that God is not partial, that all nations know or have known God by some name and prophets, and that there is still much to discover about some unknown prophets. In fact, she came to the realization that Arab Muslims discovered America before Columbus.
As she said in an interview with Majalla, for 150 years before the so-called discovery of the American continent, a Franciscan monk made a transatlantic voyage with the Arabs of the Maghreb and visited several Caribbean islands and when he returned to Spain, he wrote a book entitled “El Libro del Descubrimiento” (The Book of Discovery), in which he recounts his journey.
After Saidi, author and lecturer of Arabic at the University of Chicago and doctorate Muhammad Eissa Al Azhari took the floor to stress the importance of education and exposing each other’s to other religions from a young age. He has seen that each school tends to teach only their faith and ignores the others which can lead to “misinterpretation coming from ignorance”.
He finished by saying that learning from others’ faiths “promotes cross-cultural understanding which is essential for democracy and peace”.
In the same line, one of the first women rabbis in the world, Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb stated that the way to move towards understanding each other’s faith is by demonstrating solidarity and acknowledging the “common ground [between the Abrahamic faiths] of the importance of human dignity and treating each other with the same active love that we want to be treated”.
She explained that while the Torah might have many issues like the call for capital punishment, its central aspect is “that both the citizen and the stranger have to be treated with the same law and equity across the board”.
After Rabbi Gottlieb came Pakistani mechanical engineer and book author Tariq Mustafa that highlighted the need to cooperate and find commitment between the three religions and the value of the differences between them. In his own words, the three religions “are like branches that can go in the opposite directions, but all help to maintain the stem, the root system, and the tree”. They can work this way because they share a trunk that is the “belief in one Creator and Sustainer of the Universe.”
The conference ended with some reflections and a bit of a panel discussion on how to overcome the greatest challenges to promote a message of peace between the three Abrahamic faiths. In Rabbi Gottlieb’s opinion, we must define systemic harm to find out what the institutions that sustain racism, colonial settlers, mass incarceration, and militarism are.
“These are massive institutions mainly formed by the state, but we can come together in shared values of human dignity and confront them”, she explained. A good starting point is building a system of reparation that creates accountability, and public honoring and guarantees not to repeat the harm.
Dr Eissa defined that the goal moving forward is to find out how to break the ideas from a circle or community of thinkers to take the conversation outside into the real world. In the same way, Mustafa added that although the Abrahamic tradition makes up 60% of believers in the world, there is another 40% that has to be included in order to have an inclusive solution and to build a unified system that could start off by believing in a unique omnipotent and omnipresent Creator.