Middle East Reconciliation Mission #2

International Center for Religion & Diplomacy

by Brian Cox

Introduction

Brian Cox, Bassam Ishak and Dale Gavlak conducted a reconciliation mission to the Palestinian Authority, Jordan and Syria March 1 – 16, 2005.  This reconciliation mission was conducted under the auspices of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy based in Washington D.C.

The mission of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy is to address problems of communal identity that exceed the grasp of traditional diplomacy (such as ethnic conflict, tribal warfare and religious hostilities) by effectively combining religious concerns with the practice of international politics.  As such, it is committed to faith-based diplomacy.

 

Trip Objectives and Results

1.    To meet with Palestinian political religious leaders, academics and professionals to better understand the many contours of the Middle East conflict.

We met with the following people during our mission: Majed Ishaq (Minister of Tourism, Palestinian Authority), Dr. Bishara Awad (President of Bethlehem Bible College), Pastor Alex Awad (Pastor of East Jerusalem Baptist Church), Hanna J. Nasser (Mayor of Bethlehem), Michael Terazi (Assistant to Dr. Saeeb Erekat, Chief Palestinian Negotiator), Pastor Suheil Dawani (Rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, (Ramallah), Bishop Riah (Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem), Pastor Munir Salim Kakish (Pator of Ramavah Local Church), Dr. Musa Manuel Abu Ali (Pastor, Bail Jala Baptist Church), Pastor Issa Elias Zoughbi (House of Bread Church in Bethlehem), Dr. Mitri Ralhab (Pastor, Bethlehem Lutheran Church/Director International Center of Bethlehem), Dr. Salim Munayer (Executive Director of Musalaha), Fr. Naim Ateek (Executive Director of Sabeel).

 

2.    To establish contacts in Amman, Jordan as a potential alternative venue for the ICRD Middle East Reconciliation Initiative.

In Amman our focus was two-fold.  First, we sought to establish contact with government officials as part of the process of gaining their confidence toward an ICRD initiative.  Second, we sought to identify and establish potential indigenous partners.

We met with the following people during our time in Amman:  Baker M.  al-Hiyari (Deputy Director, Royal Institute for Interfaith Studies), Akel Biltaji (Advisor to HRH King Abdullah), Asma Khader (Minister of Culture and Government Spokesperson).

 

3.    To renew contacts in Damascus, Syria as a follow up to the January 2005 ICRD mission.

In Damascus our focus was two-fold.  First, we sought to solidify our relationships with potential indigenous working partners.  Second, we sought to identify European and Middle East sources of funding for the ICRD Middle East Reconciliation Initiative.

We met with the following people during our time in Damascus: Sheik Salah Kuftaro (Executive Director of the Sheik Ahmad Kuftaro Islamic Foundation), Dr. Mohammed Habash (Director of the Islamic Studies Centre), Ewa Nilsson (First Secretary, Embassy of Sweden), Dr. Ali Shouabi (Professor and author, expert on Wahabi Islam), Joudet Razouk (Attorney and national security expert).

 

Conclusion

Based on the results of this mission and resources permitting, we should move forward with the next stage of the ICRD Middle East Reconciliation Initiative.