Interfaith Peace Initiative
Interfaith Peace Initiative:
History, Accomplishments and Goals
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 “aliya” 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 travelled to Washington to attend a conference of Tikkun and to visit members of Congress. We were invited to take part in the 75th 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.
During its first four years, IPI members sponsored or helped to sponsor fifteen educational events for the larger community:
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.
Educational goals can be summarized as follows:
Among the humanitarian projects engaged in by individual members of the group are:
We would like to extend and expand these humanitarian initiatives in the coming year.