Religious Studies Unit
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The PASSIA Religious Unit has been developed on the notion that faith and interfaith activities are based on the belief that religious differences can be enriching and that each religious tradition makes a distinctive contribution to a society. Religion lies at the heart of nearly every human culture, shaping its identity, values, relationships, and actions. However, while religion can inspire and unite, it also has the power to divide and destroy. Religious differences have often been a cause of conflict and violence, and even today, religion is being exploited to foster prejudices and discrimination and religious emotions are used to promote other, non-religious goals.
In the case of the Middle East, tradition has it that the practices of the different religious communities frequently represent opposing political views and powers, which has not only led to hostilities and confrontations but also reinforced national, cultural and ethnic differences. Being aware that the Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities in the region have enormous potential to either encourage peaceful coexistence or support sectarian hatred, PASSIA believes that religious dialogue can help in building bridges and dispelling existing stereotypes. After all, and despite the distinctiveness of the different religious traditions, the three monotheistic faiths have bases of unity among them and others may be discovered in the course of such a dialogue.
By engaging in an open and sensitive dialogue among believers of the different faiths, each side can learn from the other and help promote better understanding and cooperation, while acknowledging their differences. This is particularly important in the case of Palestine and Israel, where the encounter between people of very different religious traditions – each inspired by a unique vision of the divine and with a distinct cultural identity - takes place in the close proximity of cities and neighborhoods. Here, dialogue can help in breaking down walls of fear and prejudice by addressing issues of conflict arising from religious and cultural differences. There will never be peace in the Middle East without peace between the religions, and peace between the religions can only be achieved through dialogue between the people.
PASSIA hopes that dialogue and other related activities will contribute to the shaping of a pluralistic society where people of all faiths - and those of no faith - are respected, where no faith receives preferential treatment, and where religious diversity is appreciated as part of the heritage of those who live there.
The Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs, Jerusalem
Tel: +972-2-6264426 / 6286566 Fax: +972-2-6282819
P.O. Box 19545, Jerusalem
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