Sheikh Ghassan Manasra’s New York Speaking Tour

Sheikh Ghassan Manasra speaks at the University of Rochester alongside an American Sign Language interpreter

From September 9-15th, Sheikh Ghassan Manasra, International Abbassador of the Abrahamic Reunion was on a speaking tour of New York State, stopping in Long Island, Rochester, and Buffalo.

“Sharing Holy Lands” – Orient Congregationalist Church, Long Island – September 9th

Dr. Donald Russo of Project Genesis

At the first event, in Long Island, Sheikh Ghassan participated in a panel discussion sharing the stage with Rabbi Gadi Capela of Congregation Tefireth Israel, Greenport, Long Island, and Dr. Donald Russo of Project Genesis, an interfaith education organization, for a discussion. The panel was organized by Rabbi Gadi and hosted by the Orient Congregationalist Church, the oldest church on Long Island.  50 people of all different faiths participated in the program which was followed by an interfaith vigil service.

Rabbi Gadi Capela

“It was a unique opportunity to share a stage with Christian and Muslim colleagues for an interfaith dialogue,” writes Rabbi Gadi. “The main purpose of the discussion was to present our respective views of sharing holy sites and spaces, in the Holy Land and elsewhere. In a world that too often opts for division, we wanted to offer an alternative of sharing, not dividing. Of course, the event itself proved that we don’t need to let dogmas separate us.”  Read Rabbi Gadi’s full message here.

Linda Hall introduces Sheikh Ghassan at the Sufi Order of Rochester

Meeting with the Sufi Order of Rochester – September 10

On Sheikh Ghassan’s first evening in Rochester, he spoke to a group of 16 people, telling them about the Abrahamic Reunion and its work. He told stories about his start as a peacemaker and the early days of the Abrahamic Reunion. He explained that there is only one truth, and every person has a part of that truth. To get to the whole truth, people need to come together. And that, he says, is what his work as a peacemaker is about.

Sheikh Ghassan has dinner with students from the University of Rochester

“Peacemaking in Times of Conflict” – The University of Rochester – September 11

The evening began with an intimate dinner with Jewish students from the university’s Hillel group. The students were very engaged in the conversation and asked Sheikh Ghassan lots of questions about what it means to be a peacemaker. They asked him about challenges he has faced and how he has overcome them. Over a delicious meal, he emphasized the power of food for bringing different people together.

Sheikh Ghassan speaks in the University of Rochester’s interfaith chapel

After the dinner, Sheikh Ghassan gave a talk in the university’s interfaith chapel, sponsored by the Student Association for Interfaith Cooperation (SAIC). Speaking to a group of about 30 students, faculty, and staff on the anniversary of 9/11, he described his own experiences as a Muslim on that day, sixteen years ago. At first, he could not believe that what he was seeing on the television was real, thinking it was a movie. Then, he and his entire family began to pray for all of the people still under the demolished buildings. He then gathered friends from different faiths and they began to pray together, because “We lost very very great people at the time. These people belong to all of us. These people are part of our big family.” When people began to ask him what he would do about the attack, he said “Now I cannot do anything. It has already happened. But I can do things for the future.”

He went on to tell the group that someone can only be a peacemaker in times of conflict. In times of peace, there is no need for a peacemaker. He explained that war and conflict are created through fear, and that “only the brave people can create peace.” He also talked about the question that seems to divide the Abrahamic faiths: was Abraham’s sacrifice Isaac or Ishmael? According to Sheikh Ghassan, the answer is not so important. “If the sacrifice will be Isaac, he is my uncle. And if he will be Ishmael, he’s my father. In the end, the sacrifice will be from my family.”

Sheikh Ghassan meets with students at a reception following his talk

Sheikh Ghassan then answered questions from those in attendance. Students were curious about how they could apply these lessons to their daily lives. One student from Pakistan asked how to create dialogue in places like his home, where most people “aren’t open towards the other ideas, not because they don’t want to, but just because they’ve never seen it, they don’t know it exists.” Here Ghassan stressed the importance of education. He also recommended seeking out those who hold different beliefs. Because even in Pakistan, where the majority of people are Muslim, there is still that minority that can be reached out to and brought into dialogue. At the reception following the talk, Sheikh Ghassan met with students from the Muslim Student Association, SAIC, Hillel, and other on campus faith groups, answering more questions and having discussions with them.

“From Trauma to Healing” – Western New York Peace Center, Buffalo – September 13

Sheikh Ghassan at the Buffalo Peace Center

Sheikh Ghassan spoke to about 20 people at a talk titled “From Trauma to Healing.” He explained that “Ignorance is the big trauma. Not the conflict, not the wars. Ignorance is the big trauma in the world.” The true way to peace is through education. We must learn from each other, and in doing so, we can learn more about ourselves. “The other is your mirror,” he said, “You can see yourself through the face of the other.” He explained that God wants us to have differences, because “Through differences we can share knowledge.”

After speaking, Muslims, Jews, and Christians asked him more questions about his work and had discussions with him. When asked how to have difficult conversations, he said “Don’t come with a strategy to change the other. Change yourself and come.” He explained that when you are open and willing to change yourself and listen to the other, both of you will change.

On Friday the 15th, Sheikh Ghassan boarded a plane to return to Sarasota, Florida, after a week of meeting new friends and expanding the Abrahamic Reunion’s family.

Special thanks to those groups who sponsored Sheikh Ghassan Manasra on his tour:

 

 

 


Fourth Annual Tampa Bay Interfaith Week Kicks Off

On Sunday, October 1, the Abrahamic Reunion attended the Opening Ceremony for Interfaith Week 2017, put on by Interfaith Tampa Bay. The Reverend Canon Katie Churchwell welcomed everyone to the Cathedral Church of St. Peter for an afternoon of worship and connection. The theme of this year’s Interfaith Week is “I am your Neighbor.”

Len Seligman leads everyone in singing “God is Too Big for Any One Religion”

The service began with an energetic and interactive prelude by Len Seligman, followed by a Call to Gather by Rev. Canon Katie Churchwell. Everyone stood together and sang “Abundant Life.” After an opening invocation by Circling Eagle, calling upon the four directions, along with the sky and the earth, Win Thompkins sang a song about unity called “What If.” Mayor Rick Kriseman then read the Interfaith Proclamation, which officially declares October 1-8 2017, to be the Fourth Annual Tampa Bay Interfaith Week.

“Interfaith Week celebrates our religious and cultural differences, and acknowledges the ways in which this diversity enriches our society,” reads Mayor Kriseman

Rev. Canon Churchwell led everyone in a call and response, ending with “All people, regardless of race, status, gender or faith are my neighbors.” Representatives of different faith communities then came forward and shared how their faith calls upon them to care for their neighbors. First was Sister Aida Mackie (Islam), followed by Reverend Chris Miller (Sufism), Father Victor Ray (Christianity), Robert Harris (Baha’i), and Mayor Kriseman (Judaism). Sheikh Ghassan Manasra went last, reciting a prayer from the Qu’ran.

Rev. Canon Katie Churchwell thanks the speakers for sharing their faith’s teachings

An address was given by Dr. Roy Kaplan, who spoke of the importance of embracing differences and encouraged everyone to be open to all of their neighbors. He stressed that “Diversity is not deficiency,” but instead enriches our lives. Closing remarks were given by the President of Interfaith Tampa Bay, Joran Oppelt. A blessing was then offered by Reverend Patrice Curtis of the Unitarian Universalists of Clearwater.

Dr. Roy Kaplan delivers the address

Everyone stood together one last time to sing “Build Me a World,”  then Win Thompkins concluded the opening ceremony with the song “Charity.”

As a group, everyone sings, “I’ll build this world if you’ll stand beside me. Give me hope. Give me faith. Give me love”

On Thursday from 7-8:30 pm, the Abrahamic Reunion will be hosting a panel and discussion titled “The Other As Neighbor.” More information on that event can be found here. For the full Interfaith Week schedule of events, click here.


AR Brings Multi-faith Weeklong Program to Swiss Alps

In the weeks before our gathering at the Zenith Camp in Switzerland this past August of the summer of 2017 there was a deadly terror attack at the third holiest site in Islam, the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in the old city of Jerusalem.  The subsequent installation of metal detectors by Israel triggered weeks of rage, counter attacks, and violent clashes throughout the Holy Land, causing suffering and casualties on both sides.

Fear of provoking violence in the region has led Israel to a ban Jews from praying or making any religious expression on the Temple Mount, which is Judaism’s most sacred site.

The people in our international group at the Zenith Camp in Switzerland wondered why this had happened.

In a week-long interactive workshop led by a panel of Abrahamic Reunion peace builders that included Rabbi Mordechai Zeller of Cambridge University, Sheikh Ghassan Manasra from Nazareth Israel, Dr Anna Less, and David Less, our group learned the history, and through interactive group process explored models for peace in the Holy Land.

It was a profoundly healing week for participants, who came mostly from Germany, but also from Austria, Poland, Hungary, Switzerland, Chile, India, Australia, and America.  Abrahamic Reunion peace builder Rabbi Zeller, who is currently the Rabbi at Cambridge University in England, but who grew up in Israel, and whose ancestors came from Berlin, was a major contributor both to the discussion and the healing process.

In addition, Sheikh Ghassan Manasra offered comfort and hope to the participants, whose home countries have been dealing with a massive influx of Muslim refugees from Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

It is an influx that activates psychic scars in European communities still dealing with the legacy of World War II, and who struggle with fears of terrorism, and unfamiliar diversity, combined with guilt about their past.  There has been little opportunity for people living in these communities to explore what is being activated in a dialogue process involving Jews and Muslims.  Our interactive work, which used story telling, music, dance, deep inquiry, writing, and personal sharing, offered profound opportunities to heal the past, understand the present, and explore reassuring possibilities for the future.

 

Peace, Salaam, Shalom

Anna Less

Dr. Anna Less

Dr. Anna Less

AR International Executive Director

Anna@abrahamicreunion.org


Video Peace Prayers for Jerusalem + Call To Support Peacebuilding

The Abrahamic Reunion Prays for Peace in Jerusalem

3 Video Prayers from David Less, Sana Albaz, and Eliyahu McLean during tensions in Jerusalem (30 seconds each)  – more peace prayer videos to come this week from other AR peacemakers in Israel and Palestine

+ Call for donations to support peacebuilding at this time of need in the Holy Land

Click here to support the Courage of the Abrahamic Reunion

Click here to support the Bridgebuilding of the Abrahamic Reunion

Supporting Grassroots Peacemakers in the Holy Land Since 2004

Through international support, the peacemakers of the Holy Land and the Abrahamic Reunion have continued to grow their work and continue to be the bridge between peoples, religions, political sides, and cultures holding space for healing and peacebuilding. These peacebuilders are local spiritual and religious leaders affected by the ongoing conflict that decided to rise up and stand for peace using only their religious belief in harmony, goodness, and human family.

The AR counts on your contributions to support our peacemakers in the Holy Land. The peacemakers are embedded in the conflict 365 days of the year.  Please consider making a monthly donation of $18, $36, $40, $99, $180, $333, or another amount of your choosing, to sustain their work.

  • Donations in the USA are tax-deductible through the AR USA – click here to donate
  • Donations in the EU are tax-deductible through the AR Germany (formerly known as the Global Hope Fund) – click here to donate
  • Donations in Israel are tax-deductible through the AR Israel – online Israel donations coming soon or email chris@abrahamicreunion.org for bank wire details
  • UK / England:  Bank Transfer to Lloyds Bank A/c No: 47911460, Sort Code 30-98-97, Name: Abrahamic Reunion (England). Checks made out to Abrahamic Reunion can be posted to 3 Drummond Drive, Stanmore, Middx., HA7 3PF

Donations can be made online or can be mailed to Abrahamic Reunion, 2372 Arden Drive, Sarasota FL 34232, or made over the phone by calling +1 (941) 993-9994.

Thank you, Toda, Shukron,

All of us in the Abrahamic Reunion