Delegation to the Middle East (2009)

Location: Damascus, Syria | Jerusalem, Israel
Hosted By: Hind Kabawat | Van Leer Jerusalem Institute

Damascus10Because of her experience at the 2007 Peacemakers in Action Working Retreat, Hind Kabawat approached Tanenbaum to conduct a groundbreaking workshop for Syrian women. An expansion of her public diplomacy work in the region, this was Hind’s first conference exclusively for women and one of the first interfaith conferences in the country. “Women and Interfaith” brought together women from ages 21 to 65 and from all walks of life – parliamentarians, media professionals, attorneys, scholars, grassroots activists and homemakers; Sunni and Shi’a Muslims; Christians from a range of denominations; and those self- identifying as secular. Tanenbaum’s day of training in the two-day conference focused on the capacity of women, in their various roles, to foster respectful behaviors and peacemaking in their daily lives. Participants created action plans and had the opportunity to publicly commit to them.

From Bosnia-Herzegovina, Nigeria, El Salvador, Sudan, and the Galilee region of Israel/Palestine, the Peacemakers came to Jerusalem with unlikely success stories born of courage and rooted in deep faith. The Peacemakers participated in a panel discussion entitled, “Religion as a Force for Reconciliation.”In a frank and often personal discussion, the Peacemakers spoke of their own conflict resolution work and the importance of multi-stake holder peacebuilding.At the request of the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, Tanenbaum Peacemakers joined Israeli scholars for a seminar on “Religion and Peace: What Works and What Doesn’t?” The dual purposes of the event were to bring together practitioners and researchers and to introduce Israelis to significant actors from other conflict zones. The event covered a range of subjects at the intersections of religion and peace.

  • Pastor James Wuye, a Nigerian, addressed the prospects and challenges of religious peacebuilding from Christian and Islamic perspectives.
  • José “Chencho” Alas asserted that “the supreme value is Life” and explained his movement of bottom-up, holistic peacemaking.
  • Sharing best practices from Sudan, Reverend William Lowrey told “An African Story of Respecting the Other’s Rituals and Symbols.”
  • Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Friar Ivo Markovic gave an eyewitness analysis of “National Religiosity and the Political Misuse of Religion.”
  • Najeeba Sirhan shared her struggle, journey and aspirations for the future of coexistence education in Israel. Addressing the skepticism of many in the region, she concluded, “If I live it, I can convince you.”

From the four-hour round table at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, the emergent consensus was that what works is that which is active and real – change happens through flesh and blood people and in brick and mortar communities.

Middle East Delegation Final Report