02 March 2017
By Loyola Ranarison*
Around 170 people gathered and prayed together on 19 February in Jerusalem, observing the fifth annual “Jewish Week of Constructive Conflict”.
From 19-25 February, the special week was celebrated by the “Praying Together in Jerusalem” movement (PTIJ) comprised of faith-based organizations. On 19 February, around 170 people met at the Tantur Ecumenical Institute of Jerusalem for an evening called “Praying Together for Constructive Conflict in Jerusalem”. There were times of prayers, reflection and singing. Participants were Christians, Muslims and Jewish and everyone could pray or meditate. They also shared talks and meals at the end of the session. Blessings were given in Arabic, English and Hebrew.
Dr Yehuda Stolov, executive director of the Interfaith Encounter Association, says “In the current reality, where the situation is unstable in the Holy Land and the Middle East, it is essential to consistently build peaceful inter-communal relations that will ensure ethical and caring behaviour towards people of other communities, as the Interfaith Encounter Association does on a daily basis”.
Despite the difference, there is room for dialogue
The Jewish Week of Constructive Conflict is also known as the 9Adar Project. The aim is to address political divisions and to attempt to build bridges within and between Jewish communities.
What is “constructive conflict”? It recognizes that, despite the differences of opinions, engaging and dialoguing are still possible. This year, synagogues, schools and local institutions focused on “constructive communication”. Activities and workshops were organized around contentious conversations and hurtful words.
While this event is mainly held by and for the Jewish community, the PTIJ initiative joined the events to show that religions, often linked to conflicts, could also be part of a peace process. “The importance of this festive event is in its inclusion of larger audiences and their attraction to the ongoing work of interfaith encounter,” shares Stolov.
PTIJ is an initiative coordinated by the following organizations: Tantur Ecumenical Institute, Elijah Interfaith Institute, Abrahamic Reunion, Interfaith Encounter Association, Kids4Peace, Sisters of Sion, Microphones for Peace, Pardes Center for Judaism and Conflict Resolution, ADAShA, Jerusalem Center for Interreligious Encounter and Dibbur Hadash.
They meet every last Thursday of the month in the Old City of Jerusalem to pray for each community and to learn more about the beliefs, practices and sacred texts of the respective traditions.
*Loyola Ranarison, communication officer at the World Council of Churches