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An Abrahamic solution in the Middle East?

An Abrahamic solution in the Middle East?

Mark Silk calls our attention to a sermon by Guy Strousma at the Oxford University Cathedral that proposes that a reinterpretation of sacred scriptures holds the key to catalyzing progress toward peace in the Middle East. Silk writes:

[Strousma] told the solemn assembly of dons, an Abrahamic ecosystem that makes it impossible to understand each of these faiths in isolation: “The complex hermeneutics developed in Late Antiquity and in the Middle Ages by the competing communities perceiving themselves to be the true heirs of Abraham remain our inheritance.”

Those hermeneutics resulted in, among other things, each community laying its own exclusive claim to the Holy Land. But, Guy reminded his audience, Genesis 17 makes Abraham the ancestor of a multitude of nations. What’s needed is a recasting of traditional religious language in terms of cultural memory, such that age-old Jewish, Christian, and Muslim conceptions can be broadened into mutual understanding and acceptance.

Is this a hopeful approach? How might it best be pursued?

(Andrew McGowan wrote about one of Strousma’s earlier presentations.)


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Donna Hicks

Chris Epting’s comment illustrates a piece of what Brian Grieves lifts up in his article ‘Balance and Dialogue as a Substitute for Advocacy and Justice?’ here:

Rod Gillis

Thanks for this article. It’s tantalizing. It is so difficult to get a handle on the role of religion in the middle east conflict. There are some analogies with role of Christian traditions throughout the history of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.

In such situations is religion being manipulated, or are religious voices doing the manipulating,or is it both? Is it possible for new religious reflection to get a hearing in a hardening of hearts context, or are such voices doomed to remain marginal within their own context? The article leaves me wanting to know more.

Canada (along with the U.S. and Israel) recently voted against the move to give Palestine state like status at the U.N. The speech by Canadian Foreign affairs minister John Baird was bellicose, to the point of hysteria. Yet, church justice groups in Canada who have challenged Canada’s right wing foreign policy issues have found themselves immediate targets of both Conservative rhetoric and Canadian media editorial opinion. It’s a case study in the challenge to religious voices attempting to get a hearing from the margins. Such is a similar situation for those advocating a more universal and less competitive understanding, of the Abrahamic traditions.


That sort of finger-pointing demonstrates precisely the sort of intransigence from all sides that makes it necessary to reframe each of the “narratives” if there is to be any lasting peace in the region.

Suz Cate

Chris Epting

The sad thing is that the Jewish narrative has been so deeply engrained that even secular Jews are not open to the consideration that Israel might be anything but “a Jewish state.”

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