What will it take to bring together groups of people who believe that they are sworn enemies and encourage them to talk to each other?
The question is: how do we break a cycle of mutual hatred? One common response is 'education'.
Indeed, education can be a powerful tool to explore these kinds of topics, but then what kind of education are we providing? How are we teaching our students? Are we teaching them to embrace differences and become more empathetic and curious or are we just expecting them to memorize facts when we know that learning facts is not always as impactful as learning through encounters and relationship building? Other recurrent responses referring directly to Jewish-Muslim communities include:
“They have a long history of fighting. It’s just always been that...”
“... It is impossible to have them talk to each other; just look at what’s happening in Israel and Palestine. They just can’t get along.”
Of course, the reality is far more complex and nuanced that some of us would like to believe. One way of drawing communities in conflict together is by creating a space where they have opportunities to listen to and learn about each other’s lived experiences, share perceptions of each other’s communities, and attempt to find common ground. How do we do this given the many historical, social, political, identity-based factors contributing to these communal tensions?
Fortunately, in the last few years an increasing number of organizations centered on interfaith dialogue building have sprung up. Their goal is to create spaces for people of different faiths and cultural backgrounds to engage with each other through constructive discussions, and more importantly to break stereotypes, counter hatred and divisive discourses, and challenge assumptions about a certain religious group. In so doing, they are helping societies to change their culture of engagement from confrontation to collaboration. Some recent examples of organizations that have done incredible work in this field encompass a cohort of 12 different interfaith and intercultural-focused organizations that started The European Institute For Dialogue as a civil society coalition in 2018; Connecting Actions, a European organisation promoting constructive dialogue across differences, and the Alliance for Middle East Peace, an international NGO supporting Israeli-Palestinian peace on the ground. A final example is The Muslim Jewish Conference, which has been organizing annual conferences to foster peaceful relations and establish relationships between young Muslims and Jews.
While it is inspiring to know that these organizations are dedicating time and energy to combating different forms of hatred such Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, intra-faith tensions, they are often faced with a lack of funding and financial support in order to carry out their projects.
As a result, we are putting out a call for support in the following needs:
The European Institute For Dialogue would need support in:
- Meeting in person to plan and organise joint projects.
- Building an internal and public online platform to share activities with a much broader audience.
- Producing a documentary on dialogue to convey its value to the general public
- Training teachers in cross-cultural/interfaith dialogue facilitation for their class work.
The Muslim-Jewish Conference would need support in:
- Setting up a sustainable organization which hosts regular interfaith youth encounters
- Starting multiple local chapters
- Launching high-quality alumni initiatives on Muslim – Jewish dialogue and collaboration.
Connecting Actions would need support in:
- Organizing trainings to equip European community leaders and influencers to facilitate discussions around the themes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
RSA Fellows are setting up social and community projects to tackle the innumerable issues caused by coronavirus. Find out how you can get involved.
Dr Sue Oreszczyn Dr Neil March
FRSA Dr Sue Oreszczyn and FRSA Dr Neil March invite fellows at the RSA who would like to join them in a conversation about how to support grassroots independent artists and their environment.
David Palmer FRSA
David Palmer FRSA lives just outside Abergavenny, and since 2012 he has been the Co-operative Housing Project Manager working across Wales to promote social, financial and digital inclusion through a range of projects.