Annual Lecture of the "Friends and Sponsors of the Martin-Buber-House"

The Friends and Sponsors of the Martin Buber House and Birgit Meurer from the Buber House invited Dr Martin Bauschke to speak at the Marstall in Heppenheim on the topic “Is the Patriarch a Blessing or a Curse for the People? Abraham and Interreligious Dialogue”.

The Friends and Sponsors, who are scattered throughout the world, cherish the tradition of this annual lecture. This year the lecture was held during the "Intercultural Week" and thus was featured among the many events organized in Heppenheim during that week. The title was well suited for this intercultural week, inter-cultural certainly includes inter-religious.

Dr Bauschke is well-known in Heppenheim, he has spoken here often, one may even say, he has his audience here.
Many had come to the Marstall to listen to Dr Bauschke unfold the many facets of this figure named Abraham, so prominent a figure in all three monotheistic religions. Not only that the story of Abraham is told differently in the three traditions, within each religion Abraham, that Dr Bauschke made very clear, is a rather ambivalent figure.

Can we speak of Abraham as a role model, as the patron of inter-religious dialogue? And he proceeded to unfold these different facets. As a role model for hospitality, as a friend of God, as he is called in the Koran, or Tzadik, a righteous one, in the Jewish tradition he could certainly be a blessing.
But there are other strands to his story. What about the Abraham who, out of fear of the Pharaoh, passed beautiful Sarah off as his sister, a coward, a liar? Or the Abraham who was ready to sacrifice his son? Or the self-righteous Abraham who in a rage destroyed his father’s idols? How do the three religions interpret this Abraham? What role models and justifications do they offer?
Dr Bauschke did not dodge these questions in the least. He spoke of the glorification of martyrdom in Christianity, of the myth of the Akedah – the Binding used in Israeli war jargon, or the readiness of Muslim fanatics to sacrifice their lives, or the fury with which they are ready to destroy religious symbols of other faiths.

Abraham is then, such was the conclusion, both a blessing and a curse; it all depends on our point of view. Dr Bauschke ended his lecture with three poems by the Israeli writer Raya Harnik who denounces the Akedah myth used to glorify the death of Israeli soldiers as a "sacrificial" death. One of the poems reads:

I will not sacrifice
My firstborn as an offering.
Not me.
At night God and I
Make deals
Who gets what.
I know, I’m aware
But not my son
And not
As an offering

As there is no discussion after the lecture, the Friends and Sponsors invited everyone to the Martin Buber House for wine and snacks. Here they had the opportunity to discuss the lecture among each other and with Dr Bauschke. Many followed the invitation and Martin Buber would have loved these animated groups discussing Abraham in his house. This most interesting evening ended shortly before midnight.


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The views, opinions, and conclusions expressed by the author of this article do not necessarily represent the views of the ICCJ, its Executive Board, or its national member organizations.