June 3, 2002
Adam B. Seligman
The Toleration Project as a component of the CURA has been in existence for a year and a half. Its goal is to develop curricula handbooks for the teaching of religious tolerance in religious schools in Berlin, Sarajevo and Jerusalem. Below is a brief summary of developments over the past year and a half in all three sites.
In addition to the work at the different sites, a number of meetings of site directors have been organized. One held in Sarajevo in December 2001 was very successful in term of sharing perspectives and developing ideas for more closely coordinated work. One issue that became clear at those meetings was just how central the international aspect of our work is and how important it was to bring outside perspectives to bear on the work being done in each site.
To further this aim two conferences were arranged in Israel for May 2002. The first, an academic conference, hosted by the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute and sponsored by The Toleration Project and Yesdoth explored issues of religious pluralism in times of conflict (see appendix and photos). Among the local participants were Israeli Jews, Israeli Palestinians as well as Palestinians from the Occupied Territories. In today’s environment I believe this itself is no small accomplishment. Complimenting these participants were foreign interlocutors, both site directors from abroad as well as Islamic scholars from France and Turkey. Here too it became clear just how critical outside perspectives and participants are to such events. The conference proceedings will be published in Hebrew and hopefully in Arabic as well. Following the Jerusalem meeting the foreign guests went up to Nazareth where they met with those educators who have been participating in the curricula project. These were a very significant set of meetings where local, educational elites mired in a seemingly intractable conflict had the benefit of exchanging views with foreign guests, themselves from countries torn by ethnic and religious strife.
Though exhausting on all participants these meetings were immensely fruitful in opening new perspectives of thought and dialogue among all concerned. As it is these local elites who will be responsible for the implementation of the curricula project the very furthering of cognitive growth and maturity among them, through the type of interaction provided by the workshop is crucial. For both local Jews and Muslims to witness a Sheich from Nazareth berating our Turkish guest for not praying 5 times a day and saying he was not a real Moslem – and then all joining together to discuss this – was an eye-opening experience. For me, the most significant moment was perhaps when the time for afternoon prayers arrived and the Jews and Moslems simply went to different sides of the same room and, without having planned it, or staging it, prayed at the same time – each hearing the other as we said our own prayers. This amidst the continual suicide bombings in Israel and Israeli military retaliation, again, emblematic of what is sought for in the curricula project.
In December 2002 further and extended meetings are planned for Sarajevo where the Israeli team with present its findings and aid in the construction of analogous working groups in Bosnia and Herzegovenia.
The Jerusalem program (run through Yesodot) is jointly led by one Muslim Arab, one Christian Arab and two Jews – one ultra-orthodox Jew and one religious-Zionist resident of the West Bank. All are experts in religion and in interfaith coexistence study groups. The program’s curriculum is overseen by a multi-faith steering committee, including well-known religious leaders of the three Abrahamic religions.
During the 2000-2001 academic year, the Yesodot managing team has developed the program curriculum, recruited the participants and teaching staff. The program includes ten full-day training sessions and a two-day retreat to solidify the group of participants. The religious populations targeted are traditionally the most reluctant towards coexistence programs, democracy education, and interfaith meetings, as well as the most opposed to the peace process. However, with effort educators were found from each side who are committed to developing democratic values and tolerance in their respective educational systems. The program began in Nazareth with twenty-six school principals and senior educators, all religiously observant but from different religious traditions. Among them, the group includes two leading Muslim sheikhs, three imams, three rabbis, one Christian priest, one sister and one Druze sheikh (see attached list of participants).
The program is comprised of two parts. The first part is more theoretical and theological and explores the causes of intolerance in the participants’ own religions and behaviors. Group participants were asked to create a microcosm of an ideal multicultural society among themselves based on equity, fairness, mutual respect and equality. To this end sociological, psychological, and theological causes of religious intolerance were studied.
The second part of the program translated the skills and understandings learned in the first part to a program of education towards religious tolerance. Aided by the four facilitators, each couple of participants was committed to develop a program to be run in their own respective schools. Many initiatives were encouraged such as students’ meetings, invitations of religious leaders from other faiths to the respective schools and intensive in-school pilot programs.
The program’s goals are to increase participants’ critical and complex thinking, to develop the ability to understand others’ perspectives and, ultimately, to enhance the will of a significant multi-ethnic, multi-religious, and multi-cultural partnership in our common country.
However, at the initial stage, the program objectives are more pragmatic and modest. It aims to teach participants the following skills (that may ultimately lead themselves and the facilitators towards the development of alternative paradigms):To see coexistence and nonviolent conflict resolution as a religious commandment. To become aware of the multiple interpretations of the holyscripture of each tradition and of the political, individual and environmental factors that comprise actual human interpretations. To see diversity and heterogeneity as an asset and opportunity for mutual growth. To see holiness of human life and holiness of divine commandments as complementary and non-exclusive commandments. To see particularism and universalism as both sides of the same identity need .To become aware of other population’s suffering and of the need to better enforce human rights throughout our world. To experience mutual respect and total free, non-hurting speech inside the group. To develop epistemological modesty and a sense of the impossibility to know G-d’s exact will. To establish a set of humanistic and pro-coexistence textual fragments from the three traditions – sources that participants can use immediately within their own religious schools.
The currciula project in Sarajevo is being developed through the offices of International Forum Bosnia (IFB). It makes use of a research network which brings together some 150 scholars from within the country and abroad, who operate as part of a wider community of International Forum Bosnia members currently numbering some 1,500. The operations are organizationally structured into three regional centres (Banja Luka, Mostar and Tuzla) and eight thematic/research centres (for strategic studies, the study of history, education, regional cooperation, gender issues, public/private partnership, high technology and IT, and a students’ programme). The curricula project is part of the educational center.
With the aim of developing the curricula project, some 120 public lectures, workshops, seminars and conferences were held in various towns in Bosnia and Herzegovina during 2001 and the first half of 2002. For the first time in the entire modern history of Bosnia’s society and state it was demonstrated that reasons for tolerance and confidence can be grounded in religious traditions themselves. It is particularly important to draw attention to the seminars with the title “The Future of Bosnia and Herzegovina: Confidence and Perspectives of Civil Society” and those entitled “Judaism, Christianity and Islam: Human Rights, the Rule of Law and Democracy”. The results and experience of various approaches to the understanding of sources of tolerance were presented and debated at these seminars, as the principle objective of the project School Curricula/Tolerance. Research hypotheses were presented, as were the results and experience and the proposals and conclusions derived from them, in the presence and with the participation of representatives of almost every factor of civil society: politicians and civil servants, teachers, scholars and businessmen, the clergy and artists, and so forth.
As a rule the programmatic basis of these seminars were the following collected works: Sloboda u jedinstvu razlika (Freedom in the unity of diversities), ed. Rusmir Mahmutcehajic and Mile Babic (Sarajevo: International Forum Bosnia, 1999); Tolerancija i tradicija (Tolerance and tradition), ed. Adam B. Seligman and Rusmir Mahmutcehajic (Sarajevo: International Forum Bosnia, 2000); Life at the Crossroads, ed. Ivan Lovrenovic and Francis R. Jones (Sarajevo: International Forum Bosnia, 2001); Tolerancija, ideologija, tradicija (Tolerance, ideology, tradition), ed. Rusmir Mahmutcehajic and Mile Babic (Sarajevo: International Forum Bosnia, 2002), and Univerzalizam i pripadanje (Universalism and affiliation), ed. Rusmir Mahmutcehajic and Mile Babic (Sarajevo: International Forum Bosnia, 2002). The papers on key issues of the project School Curricula/Tolerance that have been thus collated and presented, together with comprehensive material in the form of audio and video records and various documents and literature, already comprise a resource and data-base for the handbook on teaching tolerance.
A core-group of people has been working together on the preparation of the curricula handbook. Publication is slated for 2003/2004. This group includes:
- Prof. M. Bongardt, Professor of catholic theology from the Free University,
- Mr. A. Hoelscher, Study director of a catholic institution training school-teachers for religious education,
- Dr. Chr. Staffa, Protestant theologian, the director of Action Reconciliation Service for Peace,
- Professor D. Apel, Heilig Kreuz Kirche, Protestant pastor, working in a congregation in Berlin that has its special task in working with foreigners in Berlin,
- Dr. M.l. Mirmehdi, Scholar of religion (Religionswissenschaftler), teaching at the institution of the protestant church of Berlin, training schoolteachers
for religious education, who teaches Islam,
- Dr. G. Mueller, scholar of Islam (Islamwissenschaftler), who has been working in several research-projects at different Universities in Germany
- Dr.J.Speilmann, Professor of education (Erziehungswissenschaftler), who has been working in an educational institution of the Land Brandenburg
(Paedagogisches Landes Institut Brandenburg, PLIB
- Mr. S. Sackmann, student of protestant theology.
Cooperation is also maintained with diverse religious institutions such as those of the religious schools from the three faiths, teachers, either working in religious schools or in the training institutions for teachers from the religious communities or the State.
Cooperation exists as well with the political scientist Prof. H. Funke
(Free University), the historian Prof. Dan Diner (Leipzig and Beer-Sheva),
the political scientist, journalist and writer Dr. R. Seligmann and Professor for Talmudic studies Hana Safrai, Jerusalem.
The director of the Berlin site, Dr. Dorothee v. Tippelskirch maintains contact with additional initiatives in the field, such as the Groeben Foundation for Interreligious Dialogue, the Forum of the three Abrahamic Faiths, the tolerance network of the American Jewish Committee, The Research Center for European Enlightenment, and The Moses Mendelssohn Center.
Sponsored by Boston University, The Center for the Study of Torah and Democracy, and The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute:
A Theology of Pluralism under Conditions of National and
Religious Conflict: What is Possible?
Monday-Tuesday, May 20-21, 2002
at the Four Points Hotel (the Red Sea Hall, first floor)
4 Vilnay Street, Jerusalem.
Monday, May 20, 2002
(9:00 – 9:30) Opening Remarks:
Shimshon Zelniker, The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute
Rusmir Mahmutcehajic, International Forum Bosnia
(9:30 – 13:15) First Session: National and Religious Identity in South Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
Chairperson: Dov Maimon
Adam Seligman, Boston University
Tolerance and the Problem of Identity
Rusmir Mahmutcehajic, International Forum Bosnia
Religious and National Identity in Bosnia – Herzegovina
Shlomo Fischer, Yesodot, and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Religious and National Identity in Israel
Ramzi Suleiman, Haifa University
Religious and National Identity among Palestinians
(14:30 – 18:15) Second Session: Efforts of Religious and National Reconciliation in Southeast Europe and Israel/Palestine
Chairperson: Shlomo Fischer
Mahmud Erol Kilic, Marmara University, Istanbul
Tolerance in Islamic Theology
Paul Ballafant, University of Lyon
The Other in Christianity, Judaism and Islam
Mile Babic, Franciscan Theological Institute, Sarajevo
Religion and National Reconciliation in Bosnia-Herzegovina
Dov Maimon and George Khoury, The Yesodot Jewish Arab program in Nazareth
Can Religion Play a Role in National Re-Conciliation
Tuesday, May 21, 2002
(9:00 – 12:00) Third Session: Religion and Nationalism in Conflicts in the Middle East and South Eastern Europe
Chairperson: Adam Seligman
Ivo Banac, Yale University
The Construction of National Identities and the Crystallization of Ethnic-National Conflict in South East Europe
Meir Litvak, Tel Aviv University,
Nationalism and Religion in the Construction of the Palestinian National Movement
Muhmmad Hurrani, Shalom Hartman Institute
Nationalism and Religion in the Israel/Palestine Conflict
Rivka Yadlin, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Theology and Conflict: the Egg and Chicken Conundrum
(13:15 – 17:00) Fourth Session: Interfaith Dialogue in Southeast Europe and Israel/Palestine. Is a Local Model Possible
Chairperson: Rivka Yadlin
Sheich Ziad Zamel Abu Much, The Islamic College of Baka Al Gharbia
Under what conditions can Islam be a force for tolerance
Sheich Abdul Aziz Bukhary, Naqshabandian Sufi Path
Does religion and political power need to go together?
Niyazi Oktem, Bilgi University, Istanbul
Modernity and Tradition in Islam: The Case of Islam in Turkey
Alon Goshen-Gottstein, Elijah School, Jerusalem
Theology of Interfaith Dialogue