Unification News for December 2003 and January 2004
Marzuq Abdul Jaami
I have worked the last three decades building bridges of understanding between religions. I've taken cues from Prophet Muhammad, who worked with Christians, Muslims and Jews in Medina (in ancient Arabia), and from my religious leader, Imam W. Deen Mohammed, who started interfaith work with rabbis and ministers in the United States in 1975 after dismantling the Nation of Islam and bringing it into true al-Islam.
This fall, my work carried me to Israel. I was a member of a mission team with the American Clergy Leadership Conference and the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace, organizations that are working to establish an interfaith council at the United Nations and focus religious efforts toward peace in the Middle East.
I joined more than 130 other American clergy, rabbis and imams, along with 300 supporters from Europe, Africa, and Asia on the third mission of the clergy conference. We were to march and rally for peace with local Jews, Christians and Muslims in Jerusalem.
As I thought about our mission, I thought about success we have had in Dallas demonstrating unity in Friendship Among Faiths. We start each program with the traditional calls to prayer in each faith - blowing the Jewish shofar, ringing the Christian bell, and chanting the Muslim adan. Then we lay our holy books together on a table - the Torah, the Bible and the Quran.
I suggested to the mission's organizers that we do the call to prayer for each faith, lay the holy books together and that a rabbi, minister and imam speak on peace from their respective holy books. They enthusiastically agreed, and we worked to make it happen when we got to Israel.
On our first day, we toured the old walled city of Jerusalem. Four of us, including the Rev. Michael Jenkins, president of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, set out to pray at two mosques - the Dome of the Rock and Masjid Al-Aqsa.
The old city is divided into three sections - Christian, Jewish and Muslim, each with security checkpoints. As we entered the Muslim gate, the police stopped us to ask us to recite a verse from the Quran. Then the guards let us in.
We went straight to the Dome of the Rock and made salat (prayer). I thanked Allah for sending us our beloved Prophet Muhammad and letting me live long enough to visit three Holy precincts - Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. Then we made Zuhr (noon) prayer at Masjid Al-Aqsa.
One Palestinian brother approached me and said, "See, we have police at our mosque. Why do we have to have police?"
I told him, "Do not worry about the police being at your mosque. Prophet Muhammad would never worry about that. He was concerned about pleasing Allah. Go give the police some water. Let him see our Prophet in you."
He looked at me and said, "Al Hamdulillah," which means "All praise be to God."
I felt so blessed. It was hard not to cry.
That night at dinner, Mr. Jenkins gave an inspiring message and warning. "We could lose our lives tomorrow during our march but there's a saying in the Bible, 'He who seeks to give his life will save it, and he who seeks to save his life will lose it.' It's up to Allah now. It's up to God. And will you march for the one God?"
The next day, our group was joined by local imams, ministers and rabbis, Jews, Muslims and Christians, and we started marching through the city of Jerusalem chanting, "Peace under One God. Shalom, Peace, As-Salaamu Alaikum. Pray for peace in the Middle East."
The rally carried us all the way to the Dome of the Rock. This time the officers were given instructions to let everybody in without having to recite a verse from the Quran. Inside we chanted, "Shalom, Peace, Salaam Alaikum," and the Palestinian children and families looked on and said, "Al Hamdulillah."
After the march, a group of us was invited to the Israeli Knesset in Tel Aviv, where we spoke to members about our mission and shared a Kosher meal.
At Independence Park in Jerusalem that afternoon, more than 1,000 people watched as we addressed all three religions on tearing down the walls of division to work for peace among Israeli and Palestinian people. There was a call to prayer from each faith and readings of peace from the Torah, Bible and Quran. Hebrew Israelites, along with Christians and Muslims, finished the rally singing, "Tear the walls down, we want peace."
On my way back to America, other clergy and Christians thanked me for helping them with the Arabic translations and working with them as their brother, teaching them about al-Islam. I thank Allah for giving me the examples of Prophet Muhammad and Imam Mohammed, to work with people of all faiths for the betterment of humanity. The people of Jerusalem were so kind and treated me well.
We see ourselves as one Jewish community, one Christian community, and one Muslim community, but I think God wants us to see ourselves as one human community, one with God.
Marzuq Abdul Jaami is a member of the Thanks-Giving Square Interfaith Council and a founder of Friendship Among Faiths.
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