Can Religion Improve Peace Prospects in the Middle East?

December 20, 2007

Author: Jane Lampman

Source: The Christian Science Monitor

For some 60 years, attempts to craft a lasting peace for the Holy Land have fallen woefully short. As a new round of Israeli-Palestinian talks gets under way, some leaders from the region are insisting that it's time to include a religious dimension in the peace process.

It is the Holy Land, after all, they say, with history and sites sacred to Jews, Christians, and Muslims. The majority on both sides recognize that the conflict is over territory and self-determination, not religion. Yet religious traditions are central to both peoples' identities and are invoked to justify nationalist claims.

"It's a territorial conflict between peoples whose identities are deeply nurtured by a religious history, culture, and mind-set," says Rabbi David Rosen, chairman of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations. "That mind-set can be used to promote a constructive engagement with the other community, or to exacerbate alienation, self-righteousness, and demonization of the other."