When Interfaith Groups Travel Together
- Interfaith groups intending a serious visit to the Holy Land are encouraged to announce, at the outset, their commitment not only to travel together but to study relevant issues together and to meet, as a group, with local persons who represent a variety of religious communities.
- Interfaith groups are encouraged to develop a common study program well in advance of the actual visit to the Holy Land. Such a preparatory program should include recommendations for balanced reading and guest speakers that represent a variety of religious and political perspectives. It is important to develop an understanding of those expressions of the three faiths which are less well known in North America, as well as an understanding of all faiths represented in the group.
- Interfaith groups are encouraged to work with Muslim, Jewish and Christian agencies to plan the trip. No one of the faith groups should dominate the schedule; contacts with all three religions are important. The participants should not look on Israel as representing only Jews, the USA as representing Christians and the Arab world as representing Muslims. They should see the Holy Land, and indeed their home country, in terms of all three religions, even if the traveling group includes only two.
- Interfaith groups traveling together are encouraged to find ways to share their worship and religious values. A copy of the Koran including an English translation; the Hebrew Bible in Hebrew and an English translation by Jewish scholar; and a Christian Bible, in whatever languages the individuals speak, are important resources. Christian/Jewish groups should not use only the Hebrew Bible (even though they hold it in common) but also the New Testament and the Koran. Read each other’s Scriptures and pray together during the journey and focus on shared values and concepts rather than differences. Allow time for reflection and debriefing every day.
- Interfaith groups should include time with Jewish, Muslim and Christian communities. A conscious effort should be made to be aware of the differences between Christianity, Islam and Judaism in North America and the Christianity, Islam and Judaism in the Holy Land and the Middle East. A variety of points of view should be represented in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim contacts.
- Interfaith groups are encouraged to utilize hotels, restaurants, transportation and guides that will contribute to both the Israeli and the Palestinian economy.
- Interfaith groups are encouraged to evaluate their experiences together, to report jointly to their sponsoring agencies and to send copies of their evaluation to groups who hosted them.
Some helpful assumptions for your time together
(These assumptions are adapted from an interfaith meeting at Tantur Ecumenical Institute, Jerusalem. You might want to discuss them and add any of your own.)
- There is diversity within each religious tradition.
- Knowing as an insider is very different from knowing as an outsider. Each person must define/describe her/his own religious traditions, not other religious traditions.
- It is likely that some people from different religious traditions may find more in common than people from the same religious tradition.
- We cannot know the answers to the religious problems of people from other religions. We can listen to them and share our own experiences, but rarely can we advise them.
- We come together to share our experiences and feelings, and not hold them to ourselves nor to argue the truth of each.
- We hope at the end to be strengthened in our own religious beliefs and more open to others.
Interfaith Agencies and Contacts in the Holy Land
The Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel is an umbrella organization for institutions and individuals in Israel, promoting interreligious and intercultural understanding. Over 65 Christian, Muslim, and Jewish institutions belong. Some of the organizations are themselves interreligious and others are simply interested in interfaith activities. Some are basically interested in communicating their own religious understanding to people of other religions.
The ICCI coordinates and sponsors intercultural and interreligious dialogues, public lecture series, and youth encounters, and publishes books, pamphlets, and articles on these issues.
You can get more information about their programs and their members at www.icci.co.il. Not all members of this organization are really promoting interfaith sharing as it is known in the United States and United Kingdom. Some groups are wanting to influence understanding of their own group.
The Interfaith Encounter Association works on interfaith understanding and peace. They run several programs, including interfaith dialogue groups and special women’s groups. Contact them at www.interfaith-encounter.org.
Groups that plan interfaith travel:
Interfaith Peace Builders
1326 9th Street NW
Washington, DC 20001-4208