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Annual Convention 2013 heard from peacebuilders

    A Faith-based take on Peacebuilding in the Social Media Age

    by Deb Christian

    The Very Rev. Fr. Nabil Haddad, Dr. Rashied Omar, and Lindsey Mintz.

    Perhaps you’ve heard this phrase… “An Imam, a Priest and a Jew”… These words are usually the opening for a story of some sort and are the perfect introduction to the Thursday afternoon keynote address for the Associated Church Press (ACP) and Religion Communicators Council (RCC) joint convention. Titled Faith-based Peacebuilding in the Social Media Age, the presenters were the Imam, Dr. Rashied Omar, the Priest, The Very Rev. Fr. Nabil Haddad and the Jew, Lindsey Mintz.

    In a panel discussion format, Dr. Omar and Fr. Haddad made presentations, and then Ms. Mintz filled the role of reactor. Verity Jones served as moderator for the session. Dr. Omar is Research Scholar of Islamic Studies at the Kroc Institute at University of Notre Dame and imam at the Claremont Road Mosque in Cape Town, South Africa. Fr. Haddad is Executive Director of the Jordanian Interfaith Coexistence Research Center in Amman, Jordan. Ms. Mintz is Executive Director of the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council. Ms. Jones is Executive Director for the Christian Theological Seminary Center for Pastoral Excellence.

    Nabil D. Haddad

    The Very Rev. Fr. Nabil Haddad

    Speaking first, Fr. Haddad nodded to the social media age by noting that a tool like Twitter pushes us to summarize our faith. Ten words, 140 characters, then “click” and it disseminates something so integral, so important in a phrase.

    He went on to describe the struggle for religious freedom in his Middle Eastern home and noted that peace for that is a subjective term. “It takes two people or peoples to make a faith-based community. Christian and Muslim have two problems building that. The Muslims are silent or silenced by extremism. The Christians are silent or silenced by silence from western culture,” he said.

    Fr. Haddad presented three Jordanian initiatives to work for peace building.

    • Amman Message – presents Islamic beliefs accurately and is a tool to battle extremism
    • Common World – a group of 138 prominent scholars put together a study showing commonalities between Christianity and Islam
    • World Interfaith Harmon Week – celebrates love of God and love of neighbor that is common to ALL religions. The United Nations adopted this week of interfaith harmony for the first week of February every year

    Rashied Omar

    Dr. Rashied Omar

    Dr. Omar spoke asking for the meaning of peace and mentioned there are complex causes for the erosion of peace in Muslim society. He asked, “What do we mean by peace?”

    • Religious freedom – but a blind eye to corruption? Apartheid in South Africa had that
    • Absence of war? – negative peace
    • Racial acceptance and social justice? – positive peace

    “Peace building is beyond laying down arms. We can’t have peace without justice. The peace taught by Islam is closer to the positive and just peace,” he said. Quoting from the Islamic holy book, the Quran, Chapter 5 verse 6, “Be just, that is the closest thing to pious faith,” Dr. Omar also quoted Pope Paul VI, “If you want peace, work for justice.”

    Justice is important in Islam but more important is compassionate. Dr. Omar spoke first in Arabic then in English the familiar words, “In the name of God, most compassionate, most merciful…” He went on to say the struggle for justice must reflect the compassion of God – compassion for all not just Muslims.

    He offered four ideas to recover and invigorate the concept of compassion and spawn peace building:

    • Muslims must condemn violence
    • Research on non-violence in Islamic teachings
    • Educating progressive Imams
    • Debate US foreign policy in the Mid-East

    Constrained by time, he spoke most about the first idea saying Muslims must speak loudly and often condemning violence AND media must report their voices. “Extremists have learned the media will report sensationalist conduct. Media becomes the inadvertent ally of extremists when people on hear and see one voice of Islam.”

    Lindsey Mintz

    Lindsey Mintz

    As reactor to the two presentations Ms. Lintz spoke of her role as face of the Jewish community in the Indianapolis area. She said it is sometimes harder to sell peace to our own group than to discuss it with other groups. She also spoke about the meaning of the word peace or shalom. “It (peace) draws us to it.”

    In the Torah, Jewish scripture, peace is used as a verb. A clearer meaning might be wholeness or completeness. Rabbinic sages speak often of peace teaching that the Torah was given to promote peace. “Who is the hero of heroes? One who turns an enemy into a friend.”

    Relating again to the Social Media part of the topic, Ms. Lintz told the audience that Rabbi Hillel had done it with a student long ago when he condensed religion into the phrase with less than 140 characters, “Do unto others as you would have them do to you. The rest is commentary. Go do it.”

    Deb Christian is Director of Customer Relations at UMR Communications, Dallas, TX.