Convener of CRIHL receives the Path of Peace Award, presented by the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Trust
Words by Reverend Trond Bakkevig on receiving the Path of Peace Award.
It is with gratefulness and a deep sense of humility I receive this award, knowing that what I can do, I can only do together with others. At this moment I want to call to attention those who make up the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land – the representatives of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, Patriarchs and Bishops of the Holy Land, the Minister of Religious Affairs in Palestine, and also the Supreme Judge of the Sharia Courts – and not least my two collegues in our office in Jerusalem, Fadi Rabieh and Emma Rosen.
It is truly amazing that a conflict in this small part of the world attracts attention from the whole world. The only explanation can be that it touches the attachment which so large parts of the world’s populations feels to the history and geography of this small piece of land. And the attachment comes through religion – a reality which is not always realized by politicians, journalists and researches who deal with this conflict. But, more than in any other part of the world, it is true what has been said that if you do not make religion part of the solution, religion will be part of the problem. Religious leaders do not sign peace agreements, but it is a sad fact that religious leaders can prevent peace agreements. Precisely therefore, it is important that religious leaders become vanguards of peace.
When I was a youth, my father became an adviser to the Jordanian government and their big project in the Yarmouk valley. Living in Amman in the mid sixties, gave ample opportunities for going to Jerusalem and exploring Jordan and the West Bank. Not least did it give me new insights in the dynamics of a conflict which then was only sixteen years old. Jerusalem was a different city when I came back to Jerusalem and started my current activity. I then had the task of being a non-partisan facilitator of dialogue. Through different phases the activity has moved from religious dialogue to religious cooperation. Dialogue was necessary to create trust. But as much as it important to keep channels of dialogue open on such issues as Jerusalem, respect for holy sites and education, it is also necessary to move on from dialogue to active cooperation – which we now do to train emerging religious leaders, react to desecration of holy sites and give guidance to improving schoolbooks.
Being a facilitator means to have the task of constantly upholding the perspective of the other, helping religious leaders to see the conflict with the eyes of the other, how it affects their lives, the lives of their dear ones and their people, and seek solutions which can improve life conditions of all. Not least is the task of a facilitator to always, always, secure that the dignity and integrity of the other is respected. In the conflict in the Holy Land, a facilitator meets with one people who is deeply wounded by centuries of persecution and through Holocaust, the threat of extinction. On the other there is a people who lives under occupation and whose only access to a better life goes through dialogue, peaceful protest and the ability to persuade its neighbor and the rest of the world that it needs and deserves self-determination in order to live and prosper. Religious leaders are fully aware of their own people – that is how they can have credibility. On the other hand they need to be challenged to rise above themselves, their people and their religion and take the perspective of the other and relay that back to their own people. In the wider Middle East, it is easily realized that precisely at this moment in time, this is what religious leaders should be doing. The role of a facilitator is to challenge them to do precisely that – and at the same time provide a vision for that which we together strive for.
Jesus said: Blessed are the peacemakers! The peacemakers are those who dare walk the second mile to listen, learn and speak uncomfortable truth – when necessary. A facilitator can not make peace, that can only be done by those who have a conflict. But as a facilitator, I want to be one who accompany peacemakers – those who persuade their own flock to enter the Path of Peace.