Peacekeepers Encourage Cooperation Between Religions at ISU

Peacekeepers encourage cooperation between religions at ISU

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Jewish, Muslim and Christian peacemakers from Israel came together at Illinois State University to discuss their use of religion as a force for peace Tuesday evening at the “Multi-Faith Activism: When The Peace Process Stalls” lecture.Eliyahu McLean, Gassan Mansarra and Jiries Mansour are all members of the Abrahamic Reunion, a multi-faith group of peacemakers which encourages cooperation amongst faiths in Israel and Palestine.“We’re part of a family of peace makers,” McLean, co-founder of the Abrahamic Reunion, said. “Each one of us are spiritual or faith leaders in their own communities.”

From Left to Right: Sheikh Ghassan Manasra, Prof. Michael Gizzi of ISU, Rodef Shalom Eliyahu McLean, Deacon Jiries Mansour

From Left to Right: Sheikh Ghassan Manasra, Prof. Michael Gizzi of ISU, Rodef Shalom Eliyahu McLean, Deacon Jiries Mansour

Each speaker brought their unique backgrounds to the discussion and showed how, although their religions are diverse, they can all work together to ensure a peaceful future.

“We come together to share a message that the only way forward in the Holy Land and by extension all Jews, Christians and Muslims is to improve tolerance, dialogue and communication,” McLean said.

McLean is an Orthodox Jew from Jerusalem, and director of the peace organization Jerusalem Peacemakers. Mansara is an ordained sheikh in the Qadiri Sufi Order of Islam and director of the Peace Center in Nazareth. Mansour is a Christian Arab and deacon in the Greek Orthodox Church as well as a principle of a middle school in Galilee.

Mansour has been trying to change the perceptions of different religions at a very young age by welcoming children from multiple religions to communicate amongst themselves, even if they are from different schools and lifestyles.

“When I was a child, no one was working to build a bridge between the people,” Mansour said. “My dream is to bring the students together and build a good example for the Holy Land.”

His dream started small when he began by inviting students from the 5th grade to join together and celebrate the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah and the Christian holiday of Christmas. Mansour originally faced pushback from some of the students who were misinformed about the other religions.

“The students came with us ten minutes later, and after two years they are good friends of our school’s students,” Mansour said. “It’s important to start a dialogue between the two sides. It’s important to teach the children about other religions, as they will be the leaders of the future.”

Their initiative encapsulates changing the mindset of youths, but also includes changing the engrained mindset of the older generation as well. They feel that all sides want to end the conflicts but require the encouragement to do so.

“People from both sides wish to have a quiet and beautiful life together,” Mansarra said. “If we understand the other, we can find a way to connect with them and if we connect with them, we can feel their sorrow.”

They all remind each other that the conflicts that arise involve extremists on both sides and are not religion specific. They believe it is that mentality and the quick response to violence that causes global aggression.

“We like to show the love and dedication we have here on a small scale can be possible on a large scale,” McLean said.

Their vision is hopeful and resonated with audience members and ISU students attending the event.

“It was very relevant to what is going on today and was great to get a first-person perspective on what is going on rather than relying on the media,” Frank Cassata, senior political science major, said. “[Their vision] requires a little bit of work, but I think it can be achieved with cooperation.”

Brent Bader is a news reporter at the Vidette and can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @baderwrites.


Other Articles about the AR’s ISU Visit:

Peacemakers from Middle East to speak on multi-faith activism October 20

International Peacemakers to gather at ISU