The Interfaith Peace Initiative (IPI) was established in Providence,
RI in August, 2002, by citizens concerned about the escalating
violence in the Middle East. Its goal was to bring together people
of different faiths and backgrounds in learning about the Israeli/Palestinian
conflict. Initial members included Jewish rabbis, Christian ministers,
a Hindu Swami, and a Palestinian Muslim refugee, in addition to
a number of laypeople who shared concern for all the region's
Discussions have been candid and have provided an opportunity
for exchange of ideas and perceptions in a safe, supportive environment.
The group heard presentations from a rabbi in defense of Zionism,
and a Jewish speaker who said Zionism was incompatible with Judaism.
We were addressed by a Palestinian Christian who lives in Jerusalem,
and by Palestinians who had been evicted from their homes in 1948
and 1967 and could not return. One of our Jewish participants
left during the year to exercise her 'aliyah' or 'right of return'
and move to Israel. Many of our other members have visited the
region to see the situation first-hand.
As members returned from spending time with families affected
by the conflict, the group's focus expanded from dialog to include
education of Americans about what is happening in the region,
and humanitarian efforts to provide hope to people living in desperate
circumstances under occupation. Many educational events were sponsored.
The group also focused on America's role in the conflict.
While there were differing views within the group about solutions
to the conflict, a unanimous decision was taken in 2003 to join
the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. The US Campaign
supports a resolution based on international law and human rights
for all the region's people, and these are two precepts the Interfaith
Peace Initiative felt it could easily embrace.
Friendships formed in our diverse group have resulted in opportunities
to visit each other's places of worship. Jewish and Christian
members of the group traveled to Washington to attend a conference
of Tikkun and to visit members of Congress. We were invited to
take part in the 75 th Anniversary of the Vedanta Society
in Providence and the Eid Ceremony ending Ramadan.
The Interfaith Peace Initiative is unique in that it affirms
the humanity of all the parties involved in the Israeli/Palestinian
conflict and the equality of all the faith communities represented
in the region and in our membership. It provides respectful opportunities
for dialog and exchange of ideas. It offers a well informed core
group representing different religions and committed to human
rights and international law.