The Interfaith Encounter Association is dedicated to promoting peace in the Middle East through interfaith dialogue and cross-cultural study. The organization believes that rather than being a cause of the problem, religion can and should be a source of the solution for conflicts that exist in the region and beyond.
The following report was prepared by Leah Lublin (Jewish coordinator), in cooperation with Rafiqa Othman (Moslem coordinator) and Karmela Farrugia (Christian coordinator).
Instead of meeting at our usual place – the Swedish Theological Institute, it was the idea of Rafiqa, Reut-Sadaqa's Moslem coordinator, to have a special summer meeting at an exhibition at Jerusalem's city hall plaza. The exhibition was called Buddy Bears, featuring 138 "Buddy Bears" representing as many bears as countries acknowledged by the United Nations. As was written in a plaque describing the exhibition, "They stand peacefully hand-in-hand promoting tolerance and understanding between different nations and cultures." Many of us were on holiday in August, but for the members who did meet, it was an enjoyable "trip around the globe" as we viewed these "designer" bears from around the world.
Afterwards, we stopped off at a nearby restaurant for coffee and devoted time to members' input as to what they would like to see our group do, improve on, etc. for the months ahead. A few suggested more social gatherings like this one, perhaps to Mini-Israel, breakfast gatherings on Friday mornings. Other suggestions were getting outside speakers for our meetings, personal presentations, to try to expand our group by having everyone try and bring two people to our meetings, having a musical evening, combining our group with other IEA groups in Jerusalem on occasion, and some website suggestions.