Partnering with the Episcopal-Muslim Relations Committee and The Episcopal-Jewish Relations Committee, The Interfaith Center of New York hosted a lunch with The Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem earlier this month. The Right Reverend Suheil Dawani presides over the The Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, a diocese of the worldwide Anglican Communion, which extends over five countries, including Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine and Israel, within the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East. It includes 27 parishes that minister to the needs of their communities, centered on the Cathedral Church of St. George the Martyr in Jerusalem. The church supports 33 institutions, which include hospitals, clinics, kindergartens and schools, vocational training programs, as well as institutions for the deaf, the disabled and the elderly, reaching out to interfaith neighbors in mutual respect and cooperation.
Bishop Dawani spoke about his work with the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land, an interfaith group holds monthly meetings and seeks to lay “a spiritual foundation for political leaders.” The Council promotes freedom of access and worship at the holy sites in Jerusalem for all religious traditions and works on peace-building projects. Bishop Dawani also spoke about the importance of upholding the dignity of all human beings and the importance of meeting people’s basic needs as a critical step towards peace.
The Interfaith Ministry of the Diocese developed “Kids4Peace,” an annual program which promotes meetings between Israeli and Palestinian children and families from both sides of the cultural and political divide. Children aged 10-12, from Jewish, Christian and Muslim families meet and travel together to a camp in Houston, Texas for education and trust building activities. The camp is followed by meetings of the parents. ‘Kids4 Peace’ has grown from the first year of 12 participants to a program that now incorporates American children with camps in several locations, including Vermont, Georgia and Toronto, Canada. The program to date has served over 200 children and their families.
The Diocese is also working on a program to have peace education incorporated into the curricula of Israeli and Palestinian schools. “Education is critical for the future of peace,” said Bishop Dawani. “I still have hope- we don’t give up hope.”