NEW YORK: Catholic and Jewish religious leaders expressed support for a call by the secretary-general of the Muslim World League (MWL) for religious leaders with no political affiliation to travel to Jerusalem in a “peace caravan.”
Dr. Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa’s call was made on Thursday at the opening of a conference in New York on cultural rapprochement between the US and the Muslim world.
“This convoy should represent the three religions to visit all the holy places in Jerusalem,” he told some 400 Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders and thinkers.
Marwan Faouri, secretary-general of the Global Forum for Moderation, said: “The peace caravan can help bridge the hate gap that exists on both sides.”
Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive president of the New York Board of Rabbis, said that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict can’t be ignored or camouflaged.
“Peace can’t be reached by more fighting. Palestinians are not going anywhere, and Israelis are not going anywhere, and therefore a way has to be found to allow these two peoples to live together.”
Michael Coppotelli, associate superintendent of schools in the Archdiocese of New York, said: “We need to find a way to train children so that they can fill the caravan for peace. This can only be done through education.”
Zainab Al-Suwaij, executive director of the American Islamic Congress, said that minority rights in the Muslim world must be respected and work is needed, especially with families to fight violent extremism.
“To build bridges we can stop hatred and empower our nations and stop violence and extremism,” she said.
Ali Rashid Al-Nuaimi, chairman of the newly established Department of Education and Knowledge in the Government of Abu Dhabi, called on participants to look to the future and not to be enslaved to the past.
Al-Nuaimi said that it is unacceptable that we continue to focus on dialogue and instead we must roll up our sleeves and work on programs.
“What we expect from this meeting is to launch ideas and programs and not for us only, but for everyone. We have to have accomplishments on the ground that prove that we believe in accepting the other including his right for thought and religion.”
Al-Nuaimi put a lot of emphasis on the need to build up the role of women and youth. “If we are honest with ourselves we need to confess that for every step forward, for women we take many backwards.”
He also said he hoped future meetings would include youth from different backgrounds so that they can have a role in the future.
“Next year we want youth to represent all religious backgrounds from the Islamic world and from the US to lead and for us to be listening to them and their ideas.”