Posted on March 1, 2018 by Rabbi Jim Bennett
Last fall, I was invited to travel to Morocco with Mufti Asif Umar, Imam of the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis, and Reverend Darren Casper of the St. Louis Metro Baptist Association. During our short visit as part of the American Peace Caravan, we joined with similar teams from 20 cities around the U.S. to forge new multi-faith relationships.
In early February, we joined 350 other faith leaders in Washington D.C. for the three-day “Alliance of Virtue” conference, organized by the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies and its leader, Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, a Saudi Arabian Islamic Studies professor. The outcome of our gathering was to issue the “Washington Declaration,” a bold commitment to peacemaking within our society, led by the three Abrahamic Faiths – Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
The Washington Declaration proclaims that “[W]e cannot love and serve God if we fail also to love our neighbors — including the strangers in our midst. Recognizing that our shared values are more important than our differences, and that we are strongest when we act together, we pledge to combine our best efforts to foster unity where there is discord, aid the impoverished, tend the vulnerable, heal the poor in spirit, and support measures that will ensure respect for the dignity of every human being. We will be guided in this endeavor by convictions that flow from our deepest theological understandings.”
Acknowledging the special responsibility that faith leaders – and people of faith – have to ensuring that the teachings of our faiths are not distorted or used to destroy peace, the Washington Declaration explains: “We reject the polarization that leads to conflict and war. We are determined to deepen our solidarity and thereby ensure that religion is a force for reconciliation and harmony. We pledge to work across confessional divides in support of values that are central to each of our faith traditions, including peace, mercy, forgiveness, compassion, justice, and truth…. In that spirit, we promise to exchange ideas, train and encourage our congregants to engage in joint projects and advocacy, form partnerships with relevant national and international actors, reach out to the leaders of other faith and ethical traditions, and create a model of collaboration that people of all religions can pursue in support of the common good.”
We at Shaare Emeth have a long history of engaging in interfaith work, and I look forward to mobilizing our resources to build upon that strong foundation as we continue to lead in building partnerships – particularly across the divides of faith, ideology, politics, race, economic and social separation and prejudice that have kept us apart. With our new friends and partners in the Muslim and Evangelical communities, as well as with those friends we have nurtured for years in the interfaith community, I look forward to growing relationships and increasing peace.
James M. Bennett, Rabbi