I was privileged last week to represent the Board of Deputies at the Assembly of Abu Dhabi Forum for Peace, alongside our chief executive Michael Wegier.
Being in Abu Dhabi and Dubai two years after the signing of the Abraham Accords, it was incredible to see the vibrancy of these fast-growing Jewish communities. Given the enthusiasm and drive of those leading the community here, this hugely positive impact of the Accords is one that we can only expect to continue to flourish.
At the Forum, I bore witness to the incredibly warm welcome given to our Chief Rabbi on his historic trip to join and address the Assembly. I was enthralled by the diversity of contribution and the many perspectives on this year’s theme around cultural and digital security, the impact of challenges to global peace in terms of food, healthcare and climate, the role of religious leaders in promoting global peace and the need for partnerships to address all of this and more.
The chance to explore them on a global platform, with religious leaders, scholars and international interfaith professionals was exceptional.
Many of these themes are ones that we consider every day as Honorary Officers at the Board of Deputies, but the chance to explore them on a global platform, with religious leaders, scholars and international interfaith professionals was exceptional.
Over 100 speakers gifted their expertise, experience, and outlooks to the Assembly over the three days. I’ve come home with much to consider in terms of how to apply the richness of the experience of the contributors to the realities of our challenges in the UK.
What were my take aways? So many – and it may well be too soon to really know what the longer-term impact could be. But the quality of the content and the depth and value of the many conversations held with new and old colleagues and friends reassure me that the opportunities for fruitful partnerships across faith groups are manifold. And that each of these will be founded on the principles of equity where each partner will bring something unique and valuable to the table; on transparency and clarity where openness in working relationships will ensure a building of trust; and mutual benefit where all partners have both a stake and a common goal as well as individual objectives so that the partnership builds sustainable outcomes.
We were challenged to consider not only the role of the religious leader in promoting peace and tolerance but also in how others in society bring faith into their own leadership. As we develop our own Board@Work programme, this may well be one area that we explore further.
On a personal level, I now see the pursuance of peace in so many more dimensions than I had before. Gone are my binary notions of peace versus conflict. I now have a greater understanding of the role of faith, of religious leaders and religion in building peace and the many elements of building what makes for a ‘good’ peace. And for me, that important shift in perspective, is one outcome that can be applied in the Board’s interfaith work.
During our Covid lock down, so many of us got used to days filled with Zoom/Teams/Meet engagements with conversations that were mostly transactional. In those days, spending three days in dialogue without a clear destination might have seemed frivolous and a diversion.
But today, far from a luxury, the Forum’s three days of co-operation, exchange and dialogue provided the chance for exploration, for immersion, for satisfying the curiosity of an open mind and for a realisation that dialogue can be an end in itself, not just a means to an end.
And so, as we begin the 2022 Inter Faith Week, I return with an energy and commitment to build on and to innovate new interfaith partnerships delivering meaningful and sustainable outcomes for us all.
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