Small Interreligious Panel Seeks to Mediate Roxbury Mosque Dispute

July 4, 2006

Source: The Boston Globe

On July 4, 2006 The Boston Globe reported, "A group of prominent Christian and Jewish leaders has begun trying to settle quietly a bitter dispute over construction of a mosque in Roxbury that has deeply strained relations between Muslims and Jews in Greater Boston. The 40-member panel of ministers, priests, rabbis, and laymen has talked with both sides in the battle: a Jewish group that accuses the mosque's developers of anti-Semitic views and terrorist sympathies, and the Muslim group building the mosque, which has sued the Jewish group and several of its allies for defamation and conspiracy. Each side presented its case to the panel and was told that court was not the place to resolve the dispute, according to participants in the reconciliation effort. The religious leaders fear that the acrimony and public posturing that have accompanied complex legal maneuvers will poison interreligious relations in the wider community and create resentment that will endure even if the disagreements are resolved in the courts. A subcommittee met Thursday to plan further steps... Panel members say they hope to create a more civil environment around the mosque issue and to encourage direct communication between the two sides. 'They are very angry,' said Helmick, a Jesuit priest on the theology faculty of Boston College. 'Anger is not a very good basis for conduct or for policy. . . . We are really anxious that this [mosque project] not become a community-destroying thing. There are a lot of people on both sides anxious to see some reconciliation.' Kushner said the mediators would suggest to the two sides that, if they continue their court fight, 'this will not be a matter of somebody winning and somebody losing, but of everybody losing. . . . Victory for one side will just leave the other side aggrieved.'"