Israel and northern Ireland: Sharing peacebuilding experiences

June 11, 2013

The Interpeace programme in Israel, Base 4 Discussion (B4D), in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme, works with various key groups of Israeli society to promote commitment to peace and dialogue. One of these groups, with which B4D has been engaging since 2007, is the traditional religious population. Notably, several influential ultra-orthodox rabbis, who took part in an 18-month training programme organized by B4D, created the Committee of Rabbis, which is currently working on a Religious Peace Initiative ‚Äď a set of concrete recommendations for solutions to the conflict, with a focus on religious elements. As part of this process, a delegation of rabbis recently had the opportunity to travel to Belfast, Northern Ireland to meet with religious and political leaders from both the republican and unionist communities.

Relationship between religion and politics
During these meetings, the rabbis were able to have discussions about the relationship between religion and politics, both in the context of Northern Ireland and of Israel. The speakers from Northern Ireland gave an honest overview of the challenges to peacebuilding they have faced. The rabbis also had the opportunity to hear testimonies from influential religious figures who had personally managed to negotiate peaceful settlements within a theological framework. The Northern Irish particularly highlighted the potential for religion to play a positive role in resolving conflict.

Peaceful coexistence
The delegation of rabbis also traveled to London, where they held meetings with imams in the East End of the city. At the East London Mosque, which neighbours the historic Fieldgate Synagogue, the religious leaders discussed the commonalities between their two faiths shared their perspectives on the challenges and opportunities of providing religious education to youth. The rabbis were able to witness the peaceful relations between the Jewish community and the Muslim population of East London. The tour was concluded with meetings with British Members of Parliament and officials at Westminster.

One of the members of the delegation concluded: “Religious leaders have an important role to play by stepping in and providing a peaceful, moderate voice that can influence large crowds to seek a non-violent end to the conflict.”

The delegation of rabbis was hosted by the organization Forward Thinking, in association with the Causeway Institute for Peace-building and Conflict Resolution and the East Belfast Mission.