donderdag, maart 31, 2005

 

Rabbis & Imams

It seems a world congress of imams and rabbis was held early January of this year in Brussels, and I just never hear about it. It was organized by the hommes de parole - and more info can be found on their website :
http://www.hommesdeparole.org
One of the reports about this event (slightly edited):
One God, one prayer
Rivon Krygier is the Rabbi of the Adath Shalom community in Paris. He was one of the participants at the First World Congress of Imams and Rabbis that took place in January in Brussels.107 imams and rabbis with 71 personalities from the whole world met in Brussels from 3 January to 6 January 2005, answering to the call of the foundation Hommes de Parole and under the high patronage of the kings Albert II of the Belgians and Mohammed VI of Morocco, the congress that had originally been planed to take place in Morocco, was put back and then transferred.What could be said about peace (the theme of the Congress), one hundred rabbis and imams from the four corners of the world? Something consternating and damning: to admit that religious discourse is too often hateful and violent. The Congress has at least ended with a common declaration condemning violence perpetrated in the name of God.
.. I for my part had the chance to be present at the moment of a meeting of an exceptional density. One of the workshops, to be precise on the side lines and improvised, which brought together fifteen persons to accomplish a ritual Sufi prayer: the Ziker, the mystical evocation of the name of God.
.. It was to chant in unison a sacred prayer, softly and slowly, then louder and louder and faster and faster. The roll of voices could be heard. The ton was grave, solemn, majestic; « La Ilaha ila Allah », « There is one God and that God is Allah ». Certain bodies started to sway to the rhythm of the chants. We each held each others hands, eyes closed. Was I going to waver and enter the dance myself, almost a trance, I rabbi Rivon, and proclaim the sovereignty of Allah? I was uneasy about the verses of the Koran because I did not know what they said and could indispose me. But on the other hand I knew deep inside of me that Allah is their name that invokes my God, the same unique God, and Creator of the universe and of all humanity, He who joined us so strongly in those moments.It was indeed in the Torah that I read for the first time: « The Eternal is God, above in the heavens, and below on earth there is no other » (Dt, 4:39). And I did not ignore that this was a similar evocation of the Name (« Eternal is God), chanted seven times increasing in crescendo, the culmination of the most sacred feast in the Jewish calendar: Yom Kippur.Of course the prayer was in Arabic and led by Muslims. But we, the rabbis present, had been invited not to celebrate the triumph of Islam but to point our prayers to the tangent of our respective horizons. I started to recite the same words and at the same rhythm but in Hebrew. I was with them but from my place.
My rabbi friend suddenly took the Sheik’s place and recited the renowned prayer: « Eternal, our God and God of our fathers, consent to eradicate wars from the world, and put an end to bloody crimes. Spread a shining peace in the world; one people who will no longer draw the sword against another people, and we shall no longer learn the art of war. Then all the inhabitants of the earth will recognize the essential truth: we are on this earth, neither to quarrel or rivalry, nor to hate or envy, nor to humiliate or kill, but only to be able to know you and to praise your name for ever in peace » (Isaiah, 2:4).We cannot, we must not, we, men of religion, Jews, Christians and Muslims, each from our own non-interchangeable tradition, be sufficiently inventive to generate a universal prayer capable of covering our particularities, dominating them from above, and containing them all? If our hearts in prayer seek to reconcile all humanity around the imperatives sacred to monotheism that summon us to defend the dignity of all men as men, I do have the impression that I am betraying my religion but accomplishing it in its true messianic dimension.Rashi, the celebrated medieval Jewish exegete, interpreted the verse which is the profession of faith in Judaism: « Listen Israel, the Eternal is our God, the Eternal is One! » (Dt, 6:4). This signifies, said Rashi, that the Eternal is today our God to us but one day he is destined to become the One God, that is to say of all Nations, as announced by the prophets Sophony (3 :9) and Zachariah (14 :9) because all will invoke his Name. There are therefore two times, one articulation between the individual and the universal, and it is also my religion that has said it. The men and women of monotheism know that going back in time they are brothers and sisters, through Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah.At the Congress of Imams and Rabbis (Christians were also present as « observers »), we had become brothers and sisters for one minute of arresting silence, united by our compassion for the victims of the tsunami. The same but different. But ahead, beyond all eschatological speculation, there is still a void. I think to the word of Isaac Abarbanel, a Grand Rabbi of the 16th century: «the most part of wars between nations are provoked by their religious differences (!) as those which opposed the Christian and Muslim Empires. It is only when men invoke the name of God and submits to his commandments that he is in real safekeeping, being rid of theft and violence». I have the sentiment, in all modesty, that by participating in this common prayer, my companions and I were laying down stones, small stones for a great edifice that still remains to be built. « How ingenious », would say certain; « compromise, insubordination », would say others. As to myself, I cannot detach from my spirit these words addressed by one of our Muslim companions, at the end of the prayer, to my Rabbi friend, looking at him directly in the eyes and shaking both hands: « You see, I felt your heart beating when we invoked the name of God together. Never could I hate you ».

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