In November, 2011, the Inter-Religious Coordinating Council in Israel organized a meeting in Jerusalem for the US Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro. Attending the meeting were interfaith activists from the Greater Jerusalem area, representing the three monotheistic traditions. One of them was the late Abdessalam Najjar, a devout Muslim, one of the founding members of Wahat al-Salaam/N’veh Shalom, a mixed Arab-Jewish village in Israel. After describing some of the difficulties we face in our work, we were asked by the Ambassador, “How do you maintain hope within this situation of conflict?” Abdessalam replied, “We are living the future that we are trying to create.”
This coming weekend, Jews and Christians throughout the world will celebrate major festivals that celebrate the triumph of life over death and hope over despair. We all, in a sense, are living a future, whether we call it “the Kingdom of God” or “redemption” or “freedom.” Through our respective rituals, we create at least a temporary reality that is a foretaste of a better world.
That is how I feel about inter-religious dialogue. Sometimes, when people ask me, what it’s good for, what it achieves, and the like, I think that it isn’t just a means to end; inter-religious dialogue is an end in itself. It’s a foretaste of a better world. I wish us all a happy and healthy Pesach/Easter season. Hope to see many of you in Manchester in just three months!