Moving Interfaith Dialogue Beyond Doctrine

Jan. 25 2016

December brought two significant developments in Jewish-Christian relations: a statement from the Vatican affirming the sacredness of Judaism in Catholic doctrine and a statement from an Orthodox Israeli organization describing Christianity as a component of the divine plan. Examining these statements, Peter Berger argues that dialogue between the faiths must not be limited to doctrinal questions, an especially important point for those who do not subscribe to a literalist interpretation of their scriptures:

Jews and Christians who cannot understand the Scriptures in . . . a literal way don’t really have the problem [of resolving] how the two covenants relate to each other—both are historically questionable. The question of whether they have a common faith must be addressed through a much more nuanced assessment of the core of each tradition, rather than through the quasi-juridical decision [as to] whether the same covenant covers both traditions. . . . I think that such an assessment will lead to the proposition that yes, Jews and Christians do have a shared faith in the same God.

The other questions, about common moral and political concerns, will also have to be addressed beyond the [strictly doctrinal issues]. These concerns have been strongly expressed in interfaith statements for many years since World War II—that anti-Semitism is a blasphemous offense against God and man; that any persecution of people because of their religion is morally unacceptable; that the state of Israel has a fundamental right to exist in safety. And recalling the Holocaust is a useful help in formulating every one of these concerns.

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Read more at American Interest

More about: Anti-Semitism, Holocaust, Interfaith dialogue, Jewish-Christian relations, Religion & Holidays

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy