Interfaith Encounters Build Common Ground
A successful interfaith group that uses “positive deviance and dialogue” to create understanding and empathy between Israelis and Palestinians is conducting 70 new encounters in a cooperative effort with the Fetzer Institute to grow the impact of the approach.
Interfaith Encounter Association, which has worked in the Middle East conflict zone since 2001, uses open discussions of participants’ religious traditions and understanding to create common ground, eventually leading to love and forgiveness.
The aim of IEA is to change the way Jews, Muslims, Christians and Druze relate to each other and help them move from fear, suspicion and hatred into relationships based on mutual understanding and respect. The IEA’s model of joint religious study allows it to quickly recruit a wide range of participants, even those opposed to politically based peace processes.
IEA particularly focuses on young adults from the beginning of their work as future society leaders. The organization currently has active groups fostering interfaith dialogue and understanding including a group pairing two primary schools in Galilee, an Israeli-Palestinian group of teenagers, and several groups for college age young adults. According to IEA, “only after this process gathers sufficient mass will the political level be able to make real progress.”
Fetzer collaborator Maria Habito traveled to Israel and took part in several IEA groups, reporting that “My experience of joining 5 Interfaith encounter groups, meeting with and speaking to their members and witnessing their dynamics made me convinced … that these meetings prepare the ground for a different future in Israel/Palestine. … If we are able to suspend political judgments until we are friends who love and care for each other, those judgments will be much more constructive.”
Learnings from the project will be broadly shared through IEA’s 20,000-person mailing list, interviews with local newspapers and broadcast outlets and on social media platforms.
This is a project of the Fetzer Advisory Council on World Religions and Spiritualities.