LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. — Reinvigorated for Peace. With a sense of purpose, 403 Jews, Muslims and Christians from 16 states and 4 countries gathered at the Lake Junaluska Peace Conference September 20-22, 2009. Participants discussed how to implement interfaith peacebuilding techniques once they returned to their own communities. Keynote speakers of each of the Abrahamic Faiths agreed that action must be taken in order to make peace a reality.
“It is not enough to be peace contemplators – we need to be proactive peace actors,” said Elias Chacour, Archibishop of the Galilee.
“There’s no other way but to get our hands dirty.”Rabbi Mordechai Liebling agreed. “Peace is not theoretical – peace is not abstract. Peace is
something we have to do every day.”
On the second day of the conference, participants attended dialogue groups to discuss what they could do in their own communities to foster interfaith understanding and collaborative efforts for peace. Atif Mahmood, a Muslim Duke University student, hopes that participants take what they’ve learned to heart. “This conference has reinvigorated me to go out in my community and encourage interfaith communication.”
Atif was asked by the group how he felt we as Americans, regardless of our faiths, could improve relations between our own faith and Muslims in particular. Originally from Pakistan, Atif commented that an education is necessary for us to be leaders for peace. “If we just leave the country alone, things will get worse. We need infrastructure, development and education to make things better. Opening the doors of America would better the world,” Atif concluded. “We need to start training and exposing Muslims to our culture and let them go back and educate others.”
One of Atif’s dialogue group mates, a retired Methodist minister, came to listen and open his heart to what was being said about the three faiths. “Begin with making peace within your own heart. If you don’t do that, anything else you do is useless.”
At the conclusion of the conference, ideas from all the dialogue groups were shared. Like Atif and the retired Methodist Minister, many participants hoped to apply what they had learned from others at this conference through practical applications for peace – like beginning an Interfaith Club that shares the spiritual reasoning of sacred texts. Some hoped to organize interfaith peace camps for children, while others planned to begin interfaith Habitat for Humanity projects to foster interfaith cooperation.
Following the success of this conference, the Lake Junaluska Peace Committee announced Marian Wright Edelman will be a featured presenter at the 2010 Lake Junaluska Peace Conference, Children at the Table of Peace. Ms. Edelman is the Founder and Director of the Children’s Defense Fund. For highlights from the 2009 Peace Conference or more information about the 2010 Peace Conference, visit www.lakejunaluska.com/peace.aspx.