By: Yehezkel Landau
Associate Professor of Interfaith Relations, Hartford Seminary
Our Muslim Neighbor is an exemplary grass-roots effort to improve relations among American citizens of diverse backgrounds and religious beliefs. Its accomplishments promise to yield lessons for other American communities. For me, as a Jewish religious educator and peacebuilder, participation in this initiative is a challenge and a privilege. It allows me to broaden my network of faithful colleagues, to apply the peacebuilding skills and approaches that I use in my professional work, and to promote greater mutual understanding among fellow Americans.
As a dual citizen of both the United States and Israel who lived in Jerusalem for close to 25 years, I am painfully aware of how the ongoing tragedy in Israel/Palestine breeds suspicion and animosity among Jews, Muslims, and Christians in America. Addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in constructive ways, through respectful dialogue that taps our emotional and spiritual wisdom, needs to be part of interfaith encounters aimed at building bridges of mutual trust and solidarity.
We all have a stake in improving the health of our society. Our children’s welfare depends on it. In recent years, it has become increasingly clear that we must combat Islamophobia and other forms of religious prejudice, lest these social diseases generate heightened fear, anger, and hatred. Our social and political conflicts require spiritual remedies, and that is why I am pleased to be part of Our Muslim Neighbor, offering faith-based approaches to the nation-wide problems of religious bigotry and intergroup estrangement.