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Focus Article: Enemies no more: the power of sustained dialogue

by Saliba Sarsar

West Long Branch, New Jersey – A Muslim American woman, standing next to her new American Zionist friend, lit a candle on 20 April – the day before Holocaust Remembrance Day – in honour of those who perished during the Holocaust.

The flame was placed at the centre of an image of the Earth printed on cloth, as Jews, Muslims, Druze and others from Israel, Canada and the United States intently watched the flame flickering in the dark.

The 33 people were participants in a three-day conference, “Sustained Dialogue Groups in Dialogue”, held at Monmouth University in New Jersey from 19 to 21 April. The meeting enabled representatives of local Muslim-Jewish dialogue groups across the country to meet one another and share lessons learned and best practices, as well as discuss common principles and ways to network. Sustained dialogue is significant because it focuses on transforming relationships over the long term.

Tears welled in the participants’ eyes as the Muslim American woman read aloud:

“I vow never to forget the lives of the Jewish men, women and children who are symbolised by this flame. They were tortured and brutalised by human beings who acted like beasts; their lives were taken in cruelty… May we recall not only the terror of their deaths, but also the splendour of their lives.”

This simple but profound act not only commemorated the past but also shattered stereotypes and refocused thought and action on understanding and forgiveness, passion and compassion, trust and coexistence. Read more…

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