Yehuda Elram

The Power of Knowledge

A couple of weeks ago, my 17 year old daughter came home upset from a Scout meeting.

“Daddy, I wanted to tell you that I’m really happy I went to an inter-religious kindergarten,

I played with Samira, Rose and Ahmad, and together we celebrated all the Holy Days – theirs as well as ours. It’s true, they had different food and different customs, but honestly? They really were good friends of mine.”

When I asked her what made her remember this all of a sudden, she told me about the discussion held at the Scout meeting, in which placard opinion were revealed together with a rigid and unaccepting perception of the “Other” on the part of the young scouts . She was utterly shocked.

I tried to calm her down and explain that anything distant and different from us seems more threatening, and that her young scouts are familiar with the “Other” only from selective broadcasting on the various media and from whatever they hear from their parents (who most probably did not visit an inter-religious kindergarten)…

And this is the greatest difference, as I see it – to get to know a person and give him a chance instead of labeling him as part of a specific group. It’s amazing how easy it is to send this message – two years at an inter-religious kindergarten already did the work…

Between February 1 and 7, the U.N. Interfaith Harmony Week shall be held, with the purpose of sending a universal call for peace and tolerance among religions. Strengthening activities and interpersonal encounters of religious leaders assists in increasing awareness and openness to the subject, as well as in the gradual penetration of global cooperation as a value of importance.

Praying Together

We are used to the exclusivity argument made by every religion and nation.

However, in terms of facts, numerous believers of different religions worldwide carry a common denominator: their love for God, their love for the Other and their aspiration to do good.

Identifying the common ground for all, creates an interfaith dialog allowing cross-fertilization through learning and obtaining inspiration from the “Other”.

Praying is the basis of all religions; it meets the need for a listening ear and the belief in our right to a better future.

Each of us has his/her own prayer, both at the personal level – friends, career, and at the global level – political, economic and social condition.

Precisely for this reason we at The Elijah Interfaith Institute established – a praying community regardless of religion, race and nationality. This is how a prayer from the heart sounds when recited aloud:

Yusuf:” I work in the Old City in my family’s shop by the Jaffa Gate. I pray 5 times a day. My prayers are prayers of gratitude. I am thankful for my health, for success in business, for many things! In my heart I also wish my dreams come true and I pray for peace in Jerusalem”.

Peta: “I am from Melbourne, Australia and I live in Jerusalem. I pray that everyone should be as blessed as I am, with a wonderful family and the support of amazing friends, living in the holiest place on earth and enjoying all the best of everything. Of course, I pray for the peace of Jerusalem and the world – because until there is peace, someone is suffering”.

Henri-Paul: “I was born in the Central African Republic, but now I live in Paris where I work as a driver.  When I pray, I would usually pray for things that are on my mind, like if my daughter is sick, I would pray for her to get well. I always think about God, the father of Jesus, especially now that I am in Jerusalem, the holy and sacred city where Jesus walked”.

I pray for more tollearance and acceptance of the other in our world. What do you pray for? Would you share your prayer with us?

About the Author
Yehuda Elram attends Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, associate director of the Elijah Interfaith Institute, a partner at Gideon Koren & Co. Law Offices, a hydrotherapist and a father of five children.
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