About Us

The Interfaith Peace Initiative seeks to provide a forum for dialog and learning about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and examining America's relationship to this region. We believe this is a critical area of American foreign policy and that an informed public engaging in vigorous discussion and debate about America's role in the region is essential.

Through news sources around the world, supplemented by contact with individuals of three faiths living and working in the region, IPI hopes to provide an accurate view of the situation on the ground. Many IPI members have visited the region, and can offer their first-hand observations to others. 

The Interfaith Peace Initiative embraces three principles: respect for all faiths, adherence to international law (including UN Resolutions), and support for the equal human rights of all peoples. IPI is open to people of every faith who subscribe to these principles.

IPI Growth

The Interfaith Peace Initiative has been re-invigorated with new volunteers and creative ideas in the aftermath of Israel's massive assault on the Gaza Strip. Suddenly, scores of people are asking what they can do. We've grown from a small group meeting around a table in Providence, RI, to include people of many faiths throughout RI, MA and Washington, DC.

Now, more than ever, there is a need for Americans to be informed about what is being done in the Middle East with our tax dollars and in our names. Many Americans are losing their homes and businesses. We should not be paying for the destruction of homes and businesses half a world away. Our schools are losing vital programs and funds. We should not be paying for the destruction of refugee schools built with American tax dollars. Our country's standing in the world has been diminished. We should not be extolling democracy while collaborating in the overthrow of democratically elected leaders.

The Interfaith Peace Initiative provides well documented resources for studying the past and present dimensions of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. It also provides a vision for resolving the conflict based on international law and UN resolutions. While supporting the efforts of many other groups, we provide a credible and respected voice for change in Congress.

We can provide speakers and audio visual presentations for groups just beginning to wrestle with these issues, and can share resources with groups that have been studying this conflict for years. Many Israelis support our work, and letters from some of them are included in our excerpts from Eyes on the Ground.

Contact us. Join us. Donate to this important work. Together, we can help bring about a just, lasting, and long overdue peace in the Middle East. The time for action is now!

History

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 people.

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.

Accomplishments

During its first four years, IPI members sponsored or helped to sponsor fifteen educational events for the larger community:

  • a presentation by a Methodist missionary from Bethlehem
  • a talk by a Palestinian Christian from Jerusalem
  • a talk by a rabbi who heads Rabbis for Human Rights in Israel
  • a talk by a Palestinian Christian from Ramallah
  • a presentation by the head of the United Church of Christ Mideast office
  • a presentation by a rabbi who heads the Shalom Center in Philadelphia
  • an educational event about Israel's separation wall, featuring Jewish and non-Jewish eyewitnesses to its impact on the Palestinian people
  • Construction of a life-sized model of the Israeli wall on the State House lawn
  • two appearances by a hydrologist on the environmental impact of occupation
  • a talk by a member of Christian Peacemakers Team in Hebron
  • a talk by a Jewish Israeli who heads the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
  • a talk by a Jewish American lawyer who traveled to the West Bank and Gaza
  • a talk by a Jewish American Fulbright Scholar and Columbia University graduate who spent 5 months in the West Bank and wrote a book about her experience called 'Witness in Palestine'
  • a film called 'The Killing Zone' about life in Gaza under occupation
  • a vigil to mark the death of Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old American college student killed by an Israeli bulldozer
  • a presentation by an Israeli woman who lost her daughter and a Palestinian woman who lost her brother on the impact of violence on daily life in Israel and the occupied territories
  • program sponsored by "Partners for Peace" featuring a Jewish woman from Israel, a Christian woman from Bethlehem and a Muslim woman from Gaza who are working for peace.

These educational efforts extended to members of Congress and newspaper editors. IPI members called on these opinion leaders as individuals and in groups.

A series of ten educational fold-out display boards were prepared on topics ranging from the impact of the separation wall and the destruction of homes to the activities of Palestinian Boy Scouts. Binders with information and color photographs about the wall were presented to the Rhode Island Congressional delegation and other decision-makers. Videos of life in the region were prepared by members who have spent time in the West Bank, and more are under way. These members have made dozens of presentations to religious and community groups. A bibliography of reading materials was prepared, and the group would like to get this to book stores and public libraries, encouraging them to present more comprehensive information for readers on this topic.

Goals

Educational goals can be summarized as follows:

  • promoting awareness about what is happening in Israel/Palestine
  • creating public awareness about media omissions, and persuading media outlets to present accurate news
  • informing Americans about Israelis and Palestinians -- including Jews, Christians, and Muslims -- who are working for a just peace.
  • providing opportunities for dialog about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict
  • debunking myths about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict
  • educating Members of Congress about the impact of their actions on the prospects for peace.

We hope to accomplish these goals through:

  • meetings with community groups and religious organizations
  • public presentations by eyewitnesses who have visited the region
  • meetings with decision makers and editors
  • articles and letters to the editor
  • inviting outside speakers and co-sponsoring programs with other groups
  • sponsoring exhibits of Palestinian handicrafts
  • working with bookstores/ libraries to encourage a good selection of books on the topic.
  • establishing a website that will include current articles and reports about the region.

Among the humanitarian projects engaged in by individual members of the group are:

  • purchasing reference books for the Girls' School in Jayyous, West Bank,
  • collecting textbooks for Al Quds Open University English Literature classes,
  • supporting the efforts of the Rhode Island/Qalqilya Alliance to raise money for school fees for students in the Qalqilya District,
  • supporting the sale of Palestinian handicrafts by churches and YMCAs to raise money for villagers in the West Bank who have no other source of income,
  • supporting the sale of olive oil from the Palestinian village of Jayyous, where closures and the wall have severely limited traditional outlets for this product,
  • raising money for lights for Bethlehem to provide hope and jobs during the holiday season,
  • raising money for a child with diabetes in Bethlehem,
  • supporting the efforts of a Rhode Island private school to bring a Palestinian child to Rhode Island,
  • supporting efforts by local Boy Scout leaders to bring young people from Bethlehem to Rhode Island for summer jobs at the Yawgoog Scout Reservation,
  • hosting visitors from the West Bank village of Qalqilya.

We would like to extend and expand these humanitarian initiatives in the coming year.

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