Our core beliefs – Wednesday 5 December 2012

The Wellington Council of Christians and Jews Presents:

A Public Sacred Text Study – Our Core Beliefs
Jewish, Christian and Muslim perspectives

Wednesday 5 December 2012 at 7.30pm
Temple Sinai, 147 Ghuznee St, Wellington
Entry by koha, all are welcome

Speakers

  • Rabbi Adi Cohen – Jewish – Wellington Progressive Jewish Congregation
  • Vanessa Borg – Christian – Catholic lay person, Wellington Focolare movement
  • Rehanna Ali – Muslim – Wellington Masjid

Come along and hear perspectives on the core beliefs of the three Abrahamic religions, using original texts from the Torah, the New Testament, and the Koran.

The three talks will be followed by a panel discussion and light refreshments.

For more information, contact Dave Moskovitz, dave@abrahamic.nz, 027 220 2202

You can download the flyer download the flyer to print off and circulate.

 

NZCCJ Conference 2012: The twelve points of Berlin

The Wellington Council of Christians and Jews is pleased to be hosting the NZCCJ 2012 conference, which aims to develop a regional (New Zealand and Australia) approach to the Twelve Points of Berlin.

The Conference will be held 12-15 May at the Wellington Jewish Community Centre, 80 Webb St, Wellington.  We’re pleased that Dr Deborah Weissman, the President of the International Council of Christians and Jews will be attending the conference, along with a number of learned guest speakers from Australia and New Zealand.

Full details of the conference are available on the conference web page.  Tickets can be purchased on line at our ticketing site.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Audio: Activating the Charter for Compassion

The Wellington Council of Christians and Jews held its public symposium on “Activating the Charter for Compassion in our Religions and Wider Society” on Wednesday 13 July 2011 at the Kilbirnie Mosque.

Karen Armstrong’s Charter for Compassion launched just over a year ago, and has received tremendous support globally. A simple document of 300 words, it reaffirms the “golden rule” – that we should treat other people as we would like to be treated – and expands this into the basis for building a compassionate world based on justice, equity, respect, nonviolence, diversity, and ultimately to enlightenment, a just economy, and a peaceful global community.

Three speakers were invited to address the audience on their perspectives from their own religious traditions on the charter.  Below you’ll find audio recordings of the addresses, and summaries of the key points.

Rabbi Adi CohenWellington Progressive Jewish Congregation
Recently arrived from Congregation Brit Olam in Israel where he was the congregational rabbi, Adi has taught courses in Jewish Law and Ethics, special education, and worked as a storyteller.

Listen to or download the audio:

Summary:

  • The Jewish ethos starts not with heroism and bravery, but rather with the story of an enslaved people rebuilding their identity, nationality and religion. We are also commanded that there is one law for the Jews and the people living among them.  The take-out from this is that we are all human.
  • We know that we are not perfect – one day a year, Yom Kippur, we ask God to forgive us, but we have forty days during the year when we stand in front of our fellow people to ask them for forgiveness.  And every minute, every hour, we must face ourselves.
  • A different perspective is given to us by Martin Luther King’s civil rights march at Selma. Next to him was Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, walking with a Torah scroll in his hands.  When asked, “What does a Jewish rabbi have to do in an Afro-American protest?”  Heschel responded, “Today, we are praying with our legs”.  We were once slaves, and we cannot take freedom for granted.  We pay our price for freedom by standing up for the rights of others who are oppressed.
  • In the Jewish world, we do not pray for evil people to perish from the earth, we pray for evil deeds to perish from the earth.
  • In our tradition, there are many lists which tell us how to be a good person.  One is in Micah [6:8], “do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God”.  There are many other lists, but none of these lists talk about worshipping, praying, holidays, or how we practice our religion.  All of them talk about the way we treat each other.  These are the deeds which we take from this world to the world to come.
  • Each day we wake up and we pray that we are grateful for what we have.  Each person comes to this world with a mission to do something, to heal something, but we don’t know what it is.  So we need to do everything to the best of our abilities.  “It is not for you to complete the work, nor are you free to desist from it.”  Be being compassionate, and doing what we’re expected to do, together among all religions we can change the world a bit at a time.

Nick Borthwick and Daniel EyreNZ Catholic Bishops committee for Interfaith Relations
Daniel has a double degree in law and theology, and Nick works for Caritas, the Catholic agency for justice, peace and development.

Listen to or download the audio:

Summary:

  • The Charter transcends religious, ideological, and national difference, and activates the Golden Rule.  In Christianity, the Golden Rule is embodied in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.
  • God sent Jesus to feel our suffering with us. He shows compassion to enemies and recognises the good in their hearts.  All people can be compassionate, and have goodness, and one day the person you mistrust might be the person who saves you.
  • The charter tries to activate the following principles within us:
    • That no one is unworthy of compassion
    • Everyone has compassion in their hearts regardless of their nationality or faith
    • There is a selflessness in compassion that transcends any boundaries
  • It is important to acknowledge, treasure, and learn from the steps that have already been taken toward making compassion the heart of our religious experiences, eg the works of Suzanne Aubert’s Sisters of Compassion
  • The Charter asks us to acknowledge that “we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.”  The Catholic Church acknowledges the failure of the church through the ages, and specific apologies and requests for forgiveness have been made for the role of the Catholics in slavery in Africa, the Spanish conquest of Latin America, the Holocaust, and local relations with indigenous peoples.
  • Interfaith activities are an important way to reinforce the principles of the charter, sharing meals and getting to know each other, and standing in solidarity in the face of injustice.  It is especially important to help educate our co-religionists about other faiths and the legitimacy of their faith and practice.
  • Compassion must begin with us within our own communities.  We must reclaim compassion from institutions.
  • The criminal justice system is ripe with opportunities for us to show greater compassion to both perpetrators and victims.  We should look to restorative justice as a better model.

Aarif RasheedThe Centre for Interfaith Dialogue and Education (Auckland)
CIDE’s vision is to encourage “all community groups and individuals to participate in sincere and respectful discourse and dialogue and the inculcation in them of mutual respect and love towards other people.” In addition to his work at CIDE, Aarif is a Referee at the Disputes Tribunal, a Trustee at the Rasheed Memorial Trust, and an active member of Auckland’s Muslim community.

Listen to or download the audio:

Summary:

  • The starting point for all projects in our respective communities should be universality and a common textual reference, that textual reference being the charter
  • We must look beyond servicing our own communities exclusively
  • As humans we are created to learn from each other, for the benefit of human civilisation, not just from our own selves or or own community
  • There is a concerted effort needed to revive the concept of properness in manners, behaviour, courtesy, and compassion in the interpersonal sense
  • The other key area for work is care of children and the elderly.  Today’s rat race is not conducive to neighbourly relations.  We should be applying the principles of our faiths, rather than being enslaved by particular interpretations.
  • We must not think from the perspective of our own communities, but rather from the perspective of humanity.  Our articulation needs to be grounded in the local needs of our own neighbourhood, and should use the Charter as a universal and tangible reference point.
  • The Charter tests our ability to apply the principles of our faith using a document reference point that has no religious authority.  It tests our loyalty to the good, rather than to a religious group… that does not mean ignoring or diluting our religion, but it does test our sincerity and dedication to good.  Our quest for good is ultimately a quest for God.
  • The Charter does not intend to dilute religion, but perhaps to leave behind some of the baggage rightly or wrongly associated with religion in the interests of improving the overall human situation.  It is a truly universal reference document that takes us well beyond our faiths.
  • None of the faith groups has an exclusive monopolistic claim to compassion, it is a universal human value; it forms part of the innate goodness of every human being.  According to the Islamic prophetic tradition, “All creatures are all God’s children, and the best of you are those who are best to His children.”
  • The journey to God is really about the journey of purification of one’s soul.  In God’s presence, only purity presents itself.  “Be firm, steadfast and balanced; know that your actions alone will not be the cause of your entry to Paradise, and that the most beloved actions to Allah are those that are done continuously and persistently even if they be few.”  The good deed is an affirmation of God rather than one’s self.
  • Focussing on God as the ultimate end allows us to use all means possible to reaching him, whether they be articulated in the texts of our faith or in a different way.
  • Mercy is for all, and not just those who are followers or believers.
  • We will appreciate our faiths through the articulation of these great virtues even more.
  • This is about challenging our communities to self-critique our motivations.  As an interfaith activity, the Charter gives us a chance to affirm something rather than look for the lowest common denominator, a common criticism of  interfaith.
  • In the end, we are calling people towards good; that is the proselytisation that we need not be ashamed of.
  • So the key question is: How do we better articulate principles which honour and activate the Charter while as much as possible honouring and not distracting ourselves in any way from the focus on our respective faiths?

 

Activating the Charter for Compassion in our religions and wider society – Public Symposium on Wednesday 13 July 2011

The Wellington Council of Christians and Jews Presents a Public Symposium on

Activating the Charter for Compassion in our religions and wider society

Wednesday 13 July 2011 at 7.30pm
Wellington Islamic Centre / Masjid
7-11 Queens Drive, Kilbirnie

Karen Armstrong’s Charter for Compassion launched just over a year ago, and has received tremendous support globally. A simple document of 300 words, it reaffirms the “golden rule” – that we should treat other people as we would like to be treated – and expands this into the basis for building a compassionate world based on justice, equity, respect, nonviolence, diversity, and ultimately to enlightenment, a just economy, and a peaceful global community. This symposium will examine how we can translate these thoughts into action.

Speakers:

Aarif Rasheed – CIDE – The Centre for Interfaith Dialogue and Education (Auckland)
CIDE’s vision is to encourage “all community groups and individuals to participate in sincere and respectful discourse and dialogue and the inculcation in them of mutual respect and love towards other people.” In addition to his work at CIDE, Aarif is a Referee at the Disputes Tribunal, a Trustee at the Rasheed Memorial Trust, and an active member of Auckland’s Muslim community.

Rabbi Adi CohenWellington Progressive Jewish Congregation
Recently arrived from Congregation Brit Olam in Israel where he was the congregational rabbi, Adi has taught courses in Jewish Law and Ethics, special education, and worked as a storyteller.

Nick Borthwick and Daniel EyreNZ Catholic Bishops committee for Interfaith Relations
Daniel has a double degree in law and theology, and Nick works for Caritas, the Catholic agency for justice, peace and development.

For more information, contact Dave Moskovitz – dave@abrahamic.nz – Tel 027 220 2202

Download the flyer

Massah 30 Now Online – Rosen, Pawlikowski on Christian Jewish Relations, Binding of Isaac

The Summer 2011 issue of Massah is now online and available for download, with articles including:

  • Fr John T. Pawlikowski: The State of the Global Christian-Jewish Dialogue: Some Reflections
  • Rabbi David Rosen: Progress in Jewish-Church Relations
  • Wellington Interfaith Akedah Study
  • Deborah Sheridan: Planning Holy Week?
  • Book reviews
  • Report from the First National NZ CCJ Conference
  • News and Notes

Download the issue

Audio: Abraham, Isaac, and Ishmael – perspectives from three faiths

The Wellington Council of Christians and Jews held a public meeting on Wednesday 20 October 2010 on Abraham’s challenge from God to sacrifice his son from Jewish, Christian and Muslim perspectives. The event was very well attended with over 120 people from all backgrounds in the audience.


The newly appointed rabbi at the Wellington Hebrew Congregation, Rabbi David Alima spoke about the revolutionary nature of the event, in that up until that time human sacrifice was common, While God was testing Abraham’s faith, whether his commitment to God was so strong that he would even be willing to sacrifice his son, once that commitment had been demonstrated, people would no longer be requested to sacrifice other people. We can “sacrifice” ourselves to God for our religion, but life is sacred and we can’t kill ourselves or other people for our religion.

Listen to or download Rabbi David Alima’s talk:


The Reverand Jenny Chalmers took us through the Christian perspective on the “multilayered sharply paradoxical story with many meanings and symbols”. On one level it is about the development of our moral and ethical framework. On another level, Abraham was rewarded for obeying God unconditionally with the life of his son, and becoming the “father of faith”. The binding of Isaac informs Christian thinking, showing that faith and work are inseperable, and there are parallels between Abraham offering to sacrifice his son, and God offering to sacrifice his own son.

Listen to or download Rev Jenny Chalmer’s talk:


Hazret Adam from the Wellington Islamic Centre explained that in the Koran, the name of the son that Abraham is told to sacrifice is not mentioned, however in Muslim tradition, it is not Isaac but rather Ishamel that is offered for sacrifice. Many of the events surrounding the Hajj, or annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca are centred around the events of this story. Instead of sacrificing his son, Abraham is shown a lamb to sacrifice in his stead, which is re-enacted in the Hajj. The sacrifice of the lamb represents our sacrificing our animal instincts, that come as a boundary to our service to God, to our submission to God.

Listen to or download Hazret Adam’s talk:


During the panel discussion, the question was asked “Given that God is omniscient and omnipotent, why does he bother testing us when He already knows the outcome?”. All three panellists agreed that when we are tested, the test is to teach us how to extend our own limitations, for our benefit rather than God’s.

In all it was a very interesting evening, with many fascinating discussions following the formal part of the evening over a cup of tea.

The next public meeting of the Council of Christians and Jews will take place early next year, and will focus on Karen Armstrong’s Charter for Compassion.

The Binding of Isaac / Ishmael – Wednesday 20 October 7.30pm

The Wellington Council of Christians and Jews Presents
A Public Sacred Text Study

The Binding of Isaac / Ishmael: Jewish, Christian and Muslim Perspectives

Wednesday 20 October 2010 at 7.30pm
Myers Hall, Wellington Jewish Community Centre
80 Webb St, Wellington
Entry by koha, all are welcome

Speakers:

  • Rabbi David Alima – Orthodox Rabbi, Wellington Hebrew Congregation
  • Rev Jenny Chalmers – Anglican Priest, St Marks Carterton; WCCJ Co-Chair
  • Sheikh Mohammed Amir – Imam, Wellington Islamic Centre

The binding of Isaac (in the Jewish and Christian traditions) or Ishmael (in the Islamic tradition) is a turning point in each of our religions, with fascinating similarities and differences in interpretation between the three Abrahamic faiths.  Come find out more about the ongoing impact of this pivotal event over 3,000 years ago.

The three talks will be followed by an panel discussion.

For more information, contact Dave Moskovitz, 027 220 2202

Download the flyer

“Let us have mercy upon words”

ICCJ Pleads “Let Us Have Mercy upon Words” When Discussing Middle East

The  Executive  Board  of  the  International  Council  of  Christians  and  Jews issued  a  statement  today  expressing  alarm  over  an  “increasing  polarization  in  the  discourse  between  Jews  and Christians  and  also  within  each  community,”  when  it  comes  to  the  Israeli‐Palestinian  conflict.  Based  on  reports from  ICCJ  members  around  the  world,  “extreme  viewpoints  seem  to  be  increasing  in  popularity,  while  efforts toward moderation or compromise are rejected as disloyal or naive.”

Observing that the “degree of vehemence seems to be reaching an unprecedented crescendo in many places,” the statement  entitled,  “Let  Us  Have  Mercy  Upon  Words,”  insists  that  the  prevailing  “no  holds  barred”  rhetoric  is particularly  distressing  to  “an  organisation  committed  to  interreligious  dialogue  to  promote  understanding and enrichment between Jews and Christians.”

The title was a frequent appeal by the late Rabbi Leon Klenicki (1930‐2009), longtime interreligious director for the Anti‐Defamation League. He would intervene with these words when interreligious conversations became overly heated or personalized.

The ICCJ statement illustrates its concerns by discussing reactions to a December 2009 declaration by Palestinian Christians  called,  “Kairos  Palestine:  A  Moment  of  Truth:  A  word  of  faith,  hope  and  love  from  the  heart  of Palestinian suffering.”

The  statement  expresses  appreciation  for  aspects  of  the  Kairos  Palestine  document,  but  also  lists six serious questions about it.

However,  the  ICCJ  stresses  that  its  “main  purpose  in  discussing  the  [Kairos]  document  is  not  to  analyze its weaknesses, but to seriously engage its authors in the kind of respectful dialogue that we believe is essential for mutual respect among all religious communities, especially ones afflicted by political conflict.”   The ICCJ statement sees a lack of such respectful dialogue in the reaction of some critics of Kairos Palestine, who “come  across  as  construing  any  [of  its]  ambiguities  in  the  most  negative  light,  making  spurious  assertions  that delegitimize the document.”

“Unlike most of the other responses we’ve seen, ours, I believe, is nuanced and balanced, and does not assume the worst about others,” said Dr. Deborah Weissman, president of the ICCJ. “I hope that it will contribute to advancing the dialogue rather than stifling it.”

“We join all those who love the Land called holy by three interrelated religions in being impatient for the day when it truly will be a sign of interreligious cooperation and even love between the nations of Israel and Palestine,” the statement concludes. “Meanwhile, let our impatience be tempered by having “mercy upon words” so that through dialogue mutual understanding may grow.”

The full text of “Let Us Have Mercy Upon Words” follows.
________________________________________

The International Council of Christians and Jews serves as the umbrella organisation of 38 national Jewish‐Christian dialogue  organisations on  five continents. Its member  organisations world‐wide  over  the past  five  decades  have been  successfully  engaged  in  the  historic  renewal  of  Jewish‐Christian  relations.  The  ICCJ’s  efforts  to  promote Jewish‐Christian  dialogue  provide  models  for  wider  interfaith  relations,  particularly  dialogue  among  Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Through its annual conferences and other consultations the ICCJ offers a platform where people  of  different  religious  backgrounds  examine  current  issues  across  national  and  religious  boundaries, enabling  face‐to‐face  exchanges  of  experience  and  expertise.  The  international  headquarters  of  the  ICCJ  are located  in  Heppenheim,  Germany  in  the  house  where  the  great  Jewish  thinker  Martin  Buber  lived  until  Nazi persecution forced him to flee Germany.

“LET US HAVE MERCY UPON WORDS.”

A Plea from the International Council of Christians and Jews to All Who Seek Interreligious Understanding During its annual meeting from 20-24 June 2010 in Istanbul, Turkey, the Executive Board of the International Council of Christians and Jews was dismayed to receive accounts from around the world of increasing polarization in the discourse between Jews and Christians and also within each community. According to many of our members, extreme viewpoints seem to be increasing in popularity, while efforts toward moderation or compromise are rejected as disloyal or naive.

This polarization appears to be caused in large part by the continuing lack of progress in normalizing relations between Israelis and Palestinians and in achieving the goal of two states of Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.

Instead of the open discussion of complicated issues, Jews and Christians who critique the current reality are delegitimized or silenced, while expressions of antisemitism and Islamophobia abound. In such a heated climate, the use of certain charged phrases, such as “end the Occupation” or “the survival of Israel” can trigger reflexive condemnations, regardless of the thoughtfulness or good will of the writer or speaker. The degree of vehemence seems to be reaching an unprecedented crescendo in many places.

As an organisation committed to interreligious dialogue to promote understanding and enrichment between Jews and Christians (and indeed all people), this increasingly “no holds barred” rhetoric is particularly distressing. It contradicts fundamental values of human respect in both our traditions.

Several recent incidents could illustrate the present volatile atmosphere, but we will only consider one particular example because it is a text composed and discussed by religious leaders, who we believe have a special responsibility to promote interfaith respect. We are referring to published reactions to the December 2009 statement by a group of Palestinian Christians entitled, “Kairos Palestine: A Moment of Truth: A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering.” We find admirable aspects to the document even though we object to many of its proposals and phrasings.

The genre of the document is a lament. It addresses fellow Palestinian Christians, then local leaders, Palestinian and Israeli society, the international community, and Christians around the world. It proceeds to describe the deteriorating conditions of Palestinian life. It particularly assails the use of the Bible to justify the taking away of rights from Palestinians [2.2-4; 6.1]. This use of the Bible has the pastoral effect of depriving Palestinian Christians of scriptures that could offer them inspiration and hope. The statement bemoans the Palestinian situation as a catastrophe that seems to continue with no end in sight, attributing this to “the Occupation.”

What strikes us as admirable is that despite the hardships that the text relates, it does not descend into rage, hatred, or even ─ as is sadly all too common today ─ empty polemic. Instead, the document manifests generosity of spirit and offers some weighty religious insights, which might not be expected from a lament.

It asserts the common humanity of everyone as made in the image of God [2.1; 8]. It sees the Land as meant to be a holy place where Jews, Christians, and Muslims can come together in love and mutual respect [5.4]. It rejects all forms of violence by anyone [5.4.3]. It insists that the Bible cannot be used to justify the violation of human rights, but must inspire faith, hope, and love [2.4]. It urges that interreligious dialogue and education occur despite its difficulties [3.3.2; 9.1]. It extends a message of love and hope to Jews and Muslims [5.4]. The Palestinian authors of the document offer a profound Christian conviction which some critics overlook: “Just as Christ rose in victory over death and evil, so too we are able, as each inhabitant of this land is able, to vanquish the evil of war” [3.5]. The spiritual encouragement that the document could offer to demoralized Christians seems to us a worthy and essential exercise in pastoral care. It seeks to bring hope to young people who could easily be tempted to hopelessness and desperation. It looks ahead to preparing Palestinian Christians to be partners with Israelis when the day comes that two independent states actually exist [9.1-2].

This is not to say that we do not have strong differences with certain features of Kairos Palestine, some of which we will briefly note. However, our main purpose in so doing is to encourage open and honest conversation among religious leaders, in contrast to the widespread present tendency to misrepresent or distort different perspectives. We hope that these questions, posed to promote dialogue and clarity, might be useful to the Kairos Palestine authors if they ever compose a commentary or a second edition of it.

1. There appears to be a studied ambiguity in some phrasings, encouraging justifiable readings that range from extremely positive to extremely negative, depending on the orientation of the reader. To take one example, the title “Kairos Palestine” is surely intended to recall the famous 1985 “Kairos Document” from Soweto, South Africa, which like Kairos Palestine also challenged churches to intervene on behalf of an oppressed and demoralized people. Do the authors of Kairos Palestine mean to suggest that Palestinian Christians or Palestinians in general are experiencing apartheid, or that an apartheid state is inevitable without some change, or is the allusion to South Africa a rhetorical strategy? It would be helpful if the meaning the authors intended by the title was explicit.

2. There are certain tensions in the text. Are these deliberate or the result of the document being committee- authored? For example, point 1.5 describes previous peace negotiations as ineffectual, observes that some “political parties followed the path of armed resistance,” and goes on to accuse Israel of “using this as a pretext” to justify their “war against terror.” But the paragraph does not define “armed resistance” or explicitly reject the use of violence as it does elsewhere in section 4. Even in that section there is ambiguity. The document expresses “esteem for all those who have given their life for our nation” [4.2.5]. Does this include suicide bombers or snipers who might have viewed themselves as martyrs for the Palestinian nation? This vagueness invites skepticism about the sincerity of the text’s high principles.

3. We agree with Kairos Palestine that Jewish religious attachment to Eretz Yisrael and biblical promises concerning the Land cannot be simplistically interpreted to justify modern politics, policies, or boundaries. However, the document is again ambiguous when it asserts that “our land has a universal mission” that is a “prelude to complete universal salvation” [2.3]. Does this stress on eventual universality invalidate the particularity of Jewish religious attachment to the Land today or is it only a rejection of an exclusively Jewish religious claim upon it?

4. Our plea for everyone to “have mercy upon words,” as explained below, also applies to the document’s ambiguous use of highly charged theological phrases, such as “letters of stone,” “sin,” and “holy war.” While such expressions may be understandable in dire straits, they are often counterproductive to the goal of significant conversation among contending forces. What did the authors seek by using such freighted terms without clear definition or explication?

5. The understandable cry to “end the Occupation” is put forth as if only one party, the State of Israel, has sole responsibility for its establishment and continuance. But just as the beginnings of the present “sinful situation” are due to the actions of many regional and international powers, do not neighboring countries, their proxies, and the international community also have essential roles to play in order for Palestinian statehood to be realized? Although a broader vista appears in point 7, it calls only for the international community to institute “economic sanctions and boycott to be applied against Israel” without regard for any needed actions by other parties. We disapprove of this constricted focus both in principle and in terms of its likely effectiveness to achieve the aim of building two neighboring states of Israel and Palestine.

6. Section 9.3 speaks of “the state” in the singular, leading some to ask whether the authors of Kairos Palestine are committed to the “two state solution,” or are they only referring to “the state” in general terms to assert that any “state” ought not to have an established religion?

These and other serious objections or questions about Kairos Palestine do not outweigh our appreciation for its spiritual dimensions as noted above. Our main purpose in discussing the document is not to analyze its weaknesses, but to seriously engage its authors in the kind of respectful dialogue that we believe is essential for mutual respect among all religious communities, especially ones afflicted by political conflict. We sympathize both with those Palestinians who feel that the likelihood of a Palestinian state seems to be dwindling and with those Israelis who fear that their hopes to live in friendship with their Palestinian neighbors are a pipedream.

We also see in some responses to Kairos Palestine further evidence of growing polarization, antithetical to dialogue, that deeply concerns us. Rather than seriously grappling with its strengths and weaknesses, some critics come across as construing any ambiguities in the most negative light, making spurious assertions that delegitimize the document. For example, one allegation circulated on the Internet is that the term “dead letter” in the statement [2.2.2] is a supersessionist demeaning of the Hebrew scriptures. In fact the phrase clearly refers to fundamentalist applications (presumably both Christian and Jewish) of the Bible to current geopolitics, which transforms the text from a living tradition that is subject to interpretation by people of faith today into a stagnant fossil from the past. Another writer exaggerated the document’s critique of Israel by describing it as “demonizing” Israel. Such overstatements are a sign of the present militant atmosphere in which authentic religious convictions can be ignored. “Love is the commandment of our Christ our Lord to us and it includes both friends and enemies” [4.2] declare the Christian authors of Kairos Palestine. Does cynicism hold such sway in the present climate that authentic spiritual expressions, in this case a Christian one, must be contemptuously ignored?

On many occasions, the late Rabbi Leon Klenicki (1930-2009) would intervene at contentious moments in the interreligious encounter to implore everyone to “have mercy upon words.” We urge all those involved in interreligious dialogue around the world to consciously resist the forces that promote polarization and undermine the very possibility of such dialogue.

We join all those who love the Land called holy by three interrelated religions in being impatient for the day when it truly will be a sign of interreligious cooperation and even love between the nations of Israel and Palestine. Meanwhile, let our impatience be tempered by having “mercy upon words” so that through dialogue mutual understanding may grow.

Massah 29 Now Online – ecology, The Mystery of God’s Call, book reviews, and more

The Winter 2010 issue of Massah is now online and available for download, with articles in this issue including:

  • For Your Diary
  • With Ecological Eyes – Elaine M. Wainwright
  • The Mystery of God‘s Call – Brian Arahill
  • Cardinal Receives AJC Award
  • Book Reviews
    • Globalising Hatred: The New Antisemitism by Denis MacShane, reviewed by Christopher Honore
    • The Inextinguishable Symphony: A True Story of Music and Love in Nazi Germany by Martin Goldsmith, reviewed by Peter Wedde
    • The Flight by Bryan Malessa, and Pushing Time Away by Peter Singer, reviewed by Lynne Wall
  • Roads That Lead to Cambridge – Lucia Faltin
  • News and Notes
  • Times and Seasons

National CCJ Conference: 3-4 July 2010

National Council of Christians and Jews Conference
Saturday July 3 and Sunday July 4, 2010
Wesley Hall, St Johns College, 202 St Johns Road, Meadowbank, Auckland

Theme: Christian-Jewish Dialogue: Encouraging Development, Emerging Challenges

Keynote speaker: Rev Dr John Pawlikowski OSM, Professor of Ethics and Director of the Catholic-Jewish Studies Programme at the University of Chicago, Past President of the ICCJ and for over forty years a leading figure in Jewish-Christian relations worldwide. With Dr Paul Morris, Professor of Religious Studies, Victoria University of Wellington.

Featuring also Mona Williams, New Zealand’s foremost professional story-teller, speaking after dinner on Saturday and after lunch on Sunday.

Programme

Saturday July 3
5pm Reception (mix, mingle, introduce yourself, meet others)
6pm Dinner in St Johns Dining Hall, followed by Mona Williams
Sunday July 4
10am Keynote speech: Rev Dr John Pawlikowski OSM
11am Morning tea
11.30-12.30pm Response: Professor Paul Morris
12.30pm Lunch, followed by Mona Williams
1.30-2.30pm Panel discussion
2.45-3.00pm Coffee break
3.00-3.45pm Final word: Rev Dr John Pawlikowski OSM

If you would like to come to the conference, please download, fill in, and return the registration form (Word) (PDF) with your registration payment of $20.