Boston Jews, Muslims, Christians opt for joint stance . The Interfaith Declaration Coordinating Committee


Shortly after Israel began its air strikes on Hamas targets in Gaza, one of Boston's Muslim community leaders sent an email to a diverse array of interfaith colleagues in the Boston area to convey his organisation's position on the bombing campaign and indicate that its members would be participating in a rally protesting the Israeli strikes.
In response, one of Boston's Jewish community leaders lamented the loss of life, but rejected the criticism of Israel's campaign and urged the email's recipients to attend a counter-protest in support of Israel's actions.
Joining the email trail, yet another Jewish community member wondered why both sides couldn't agree on a set of shared principles that addressed the Gaza situation. A respected Muslim doctor further recommended crafting a joint statement embodying those principles for all to sign. Then a Catholic community leader volunteered to help coordinate the inputs from the various faith communities and the drafting began.
And that is how, after a two-week gestation period that was not without complications, “An Interfaith Declaration for Peace” was born.
On 11 January, a group of 60 Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders in Boston issued the joint declaration, calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and asserting their common humanity.
The vision proposed that all members of the Boston religious communities stand together, with a common plea, in the face of the tragedy unfolding in the Middle East, rather than on opposite sides of the street, hurling accusations at one another.
In a rare acknowledgment of the "wide range of deeply-held beliefs, and intensely-felt narratives on all sides", the statement recognises "the legitimate needs of all peoples, including all those living in the Middle East, for dignity, peace, safety and security – regardless of religion, race, or national origin."
"In the most difficult of times we are prepared to stand shoulder to shoulder and stretch out our hands to each other", stated Dr. Abdul Cader Asmal, a physician, "in the hope that others will see that this can be done."
"This conflict causes me, and members of my community, great anguish for the suffering of Israelis and the destruction of Palestinians. I do not want, however, to stand in a protest line that divides the Jewish community, or that pits Jews against Muslims here in Boston", Rabbi Barbara Penzner of Temple Hillel B'nai Torah in the West Roxbury section of Boston, was quoted as saying.
"If we can't talk to each other here in Boston, where can we talk?" she added.
"Those who signed this declaration showed that, in a time of painful crisis, they did not retreat into their corners but turned to each other", observed Reverend Ray Helmick, S.J., a lecturer in conflict resolution at Boston College.
Recognising that demonstrations and counter-demonstrations threaten to undermine years of efforts to build bridges between local faith communities, the statement concludes, "Through this joint statement we affirm our commitment to engage with one another, even, and especially, during times of great stress. We also affirm our common humanity and our common belief – as Jews, Muslims and Christians – that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must cease…."
Rollout of the declaration was followed by a silent interfaith peace vigil that affirmed the principles it enunciates, in downtown Boston on 13 January. Approximately 500 Jews, Muslims and Christians attended, carrying candles and holding signs that reflected the core values of the declaration. The Boston Workmen’s Circle Yiddish Chorus brought the event to a close with a song entitled “Peace, Salaam, Shalom”, a tribute to peace in English, Arabic and Hebrew.

The document is available for signing at:


* The Interfaith Declaration Coordinating Committee was responsible for the drafting and distribution of “An Interfaith Declaration for Peace”.

For a list of the original signatories, please visit This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

Source: Common Ground News Service (CGNews), 20 January 2009,
Copyright permission is granted for publication.

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