Santa Clara University

A Dialog of Faith

Moral Reflections on Middle East Conflict From Jewish, Muslim, and Christian Perspectives

Compiled and edited by William James Stover, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Santa Clara University

The Middle East is both the birth place of the world’s three great religions and the cradle of seemingly endless conflict.

Over many centuries, various civilizations and conquering armies brought their ideas, authority, and often repression to the region, affecting values, sometimes evoking respect, frequently fostering resentment and provoking resistance.

During the recent past, with violence escalating, individuals and groups from all sides have tried to move the Middle East toward peace with little success. Clashing national interests, the baggage of history, greedy outsiders’ meddling, as well as indigenous people’s suspicion, mistrust, and bitterness have combined to subvert their efforts.

Despite these failures, the moral principles of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism provide a pathway to peace, and increasing numbers of the faithful cry out for a resolution of the region’s conflict.

During the winter of 2004, Santa Clara University brought together on-line religious teachers and practitioners from the three world religions to discuss important issues associated with Middle East conflict: resistance, suicide bombing, America’s role in the Middle East, and the future shape of peace. Supported by Santa Clara University’s Bannan Center for Jesuit Education, these conversations were aimed at helping all parties better understand one another’s concerns, values, and commitment to peace.

In preparation for this Dialog of Faith, I made two trips to the Middle East, one to Israel, the other to Lebanon, Syria, and Morocco. In Jerusalem, I was able to contact officials in the Ministry of Education (both Israelis and Palestinians) and several rabbis as well as faculty at Qods University and Hebrew University. These individuals introduced me to other interested parties, many of whom I was able to contact later by email.

In the Arab countries, I recruited participants from Saint Joseph’s University in East Beirut, a Jesuit institution, and the American University in West Beirut. Contacts in Morocco came from Al Akhawayn University, an English language institution founded by the Saudi Arabian and Moroccan kings.

The dialog also included individuals in Europe and the United States, particularly several from the Bay Area. As a result of this effort, the Dialog of Faith involved four Jews, two of whom are nationals of Israel; nine Muslims, five of whom are nationals of Arab countries; and six Christians including three Jesuits, a Baptist who is a chaplain at Al Akhawayn University, a Congregational minister from Palo Alto, and a professor of religion from Loyola University (New Orleans). The Jesuits are from Saint Joseph’s University (Lebanon), Boston College, and the Secretary for Inter-religious Dialogue of the Society of Jesus (Rome). This provided us with a wide variety of experience and opinion.

We invited guests to join us, observing the dialog through reading the conversations of our participants on our Web site. Over 33 individuals registered as guests, formally "visiting" the Web site from Morocco, Israel, Palestine, the United Kingdom, Jordan, Lebanon, and Canada, as well as the United States. Other guests may have also viewed the exchange without formally registering. Additionally, two classes in Morocco, two at Santa Clara, one in Lebanon, and one at Loyola University (New Orleans) participated. To help these "visitors" better understand the exchange, we posted on the Web site an extensive bibliography dealing with war, morality, and justice from the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian traditions. These included on-line citations, classical texts, journal articles and other bibliographic sources. As a result, guests, students, and participants had easy access to literature dealing with the topics under discussion.

From March 1 through March 10, our participants replied to a series of questions, and then questioned each others’ replies. What follows is a summarized version of the exchange.

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