Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
March 26, 2001
Faiths look at Jerusalem's future
Inter-faith dialogue spotlights hopes for peace in holy city
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
EDMONTON — Representatives of the three great religions with special ties to Jerusalem came together March 18 to speak about their love for a city torn by conflict.
"We must all pray that peace will come to Jerusalem," Archbishop Thomas Collins told about 200 people at the Dialogue on Jerusalem - the Centre of Faith, held at McDougall United Church in downtown Edmonton.
The Dialogue was organized by The Edmonton Interfaith Centre for Education and Action.
Collins spoke on behalf of Christians while Rabbi Joseph Ehrenkranz, executive director, Centre for Christian-Jewish Understanding of Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, Conn., gave the Jewish interpretation of this holy city. Saleem Qureshi, professor emeritus in political science, University of Alberta, stated the Muslim point of view.
Jerusalem was chosen as the focus of the dialogue because three western religions - Christianity, Judaism and Islam - have roots in the city.
Collins explained the Christian point of view in three sections.
First, he said, Jerusalem is so much connected with the life of Jesus. "It is in this city that Jesus Christ was arrested, tried, tortured and crucified. It is also in this city that Jesus rose from the dead.
"Further, the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles in this city and they fanned out to spread the message of Christ. Therefore, Jerusalem has enormous significance to Christians all over the world."
The archbishop also referred to a communication he received from a priest now in Jerusalem. "This priest had been warned by his colleagues not to visit the city because of the current conflict and to wait till the problems die down.
"'But Jerusalem has been the centre of conflict for over 2,000 years, and I cannot wait!' the priest informed me through e-mail." Next, Jerusalem is also a symbol of Christian faith, he noted. "This symbolic value is also important. It is a heavenly city. Great Catholic leaders like St. Augustine have written about Jerusalem as a centre of faith."
Third, Jerusalem is also a centre of pilgrimage. Christians from all over the world yearn to visit this sacred city. Thus it has attracted pilgrims for thousands of years.
Collins, who has visited Jerusalem a couple of times, informed the audience how awesome he felt when he walked the paths that Christ himself had walked. He referred specially to the steps leading to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed prior to his arrest.
The archbishop also noted that "coming home" to Jerusalem has a religious significance since Christianity began there and spread all over the world. Therefore, every Christian should "return" ultimately to this city of Christ. On a personal note he declared that at his funeral, people must sing not Amazing Grace, but Jerusalem, Oh Jerusalem.'
Finally, Collins expressed his sorrow that the holy city is torn apart by conflict.
Rabbi Joseph Ehrenkranz traced the history of Jerusalem beginning with its founding by King Saul. "It was King David, the second monarch who established Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. He was followed by his son Solomon. These are the three kings of Israel."
He added: "Jerusalem has been the holiest city of Jewish people and there is enough historical and archaeological evidence to prove this point."
The rabbi noted that everyone calls for world peace but it cannot happen unless there is religious peace. "No religious peace can be achieved unless there is dialogue."
Ehrenkranz also said that as long as one religious group claims exclusivity, there cannot be peace in Jerusalem.
Qureshi said the problem of Jerusalem is a problem of politics, and politics is about power, about claim to land, the resources. Next to Mecca and Medina, Jerusalem is the holiest city for Muslims since Prophet Mohammed rose to heaven in Jerusalem, he said. The Dome of the Rock has been built on this site.
Qureshi also emphasized no one religious or ethnic group should impose their will on another group. The Roman Empire, Ottoman Empire, Nazi regime are non-existent today because they subjugated others to their will.
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