During a short trip to the West Bank this November, an interfaith group, most of them British Muslims from the Faith Matters organization, visited Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Ramallah and Hebron through a Holy Land Trust program for five days.
Faith Matters is a UK interfaith and community cohesion-based organization that works “towards conflict resolution and cohesion through work with faith communities in the UK and the Middle East.” The aim of the trip was to bring British Muslims to the Palestinian territories so that they gain awareness of issues within the region and to build networks and links with faith-based and interfaith organizations in the arena. Therefore, the trip included meetings with key faith leaders, organizations and faith institutions.
The group had the chance to have an overview of interreligious relations in the region and diverse Jewish perspectives on Judaism and the State. They also met with Archbishop Atallah Hanna who talked about the relationship between Muslims and Christians. The group also had the time to wander around the old city of Jerusalem and visit the Dome of the Rock and the Aqsa Mosque. They also learned about the relationships between Arabs and Jews through Musalaha, an organization that works towards reconciliation.
The group had a series of private-facing discussions in Jerusalem and Bethlehem including a meeting with HLT Executive Director Sami Awad (who shared his personal experience in nonviolence), a meeting with a member of parliament and representatives from the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). Short pilgrimages were also included and allowed the group to pray at the Ibrahimi Mosque. A visit to HLT home rebuilding project at Al-Khader village and to the St. George Monastery was a highlight. A great ending of their tour was enjoying dinner and a cultural evening along with HLT staff in Bethlehem before heading back home.
With the aim of promoting the messages of understanding, mutual support and empathy between Muslims and Christians both in Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories and within the UK, the group left the Holy Land supporting Muslim and Christian dialogue and ensuring that the dialogue continues through the participants when back in the UK.