Dozens of rabbis, sheikhs and church leaders from Israel and the Palestinian territories denounced violence and incitement in a declaration issued after a series of closed-door interfaith meetings held in Spain last week.
Summit organizers said in a statement that while some participants were “considered extremists,” the Jewish, Christian and Muslim clergy recognized their “special responsibility to contribute to the desired peace.”
Hamas-linked Sheikh Imad Al-Falouji, a founder of the terror organization’s military wing and former Gaza imam, was listed alongside Israel’s Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau as participants in last week’s Religious Leaders for Peace in the Middle East Summit.
The joint declaration signed by the Israeli and Palestinian religious leaders conceded they were “responsible for promoting a life of mutual respect based upon justice and safety,” and had gathered in Spain to gathered “to relentlessly seek peace in the Land.”
The leaders stressed that Judaism, Islam and Christianity valued the sanctity of life, and vowed to work against religiously-motivated violence.
“The violence that is conducted, supposedly in the name of God, is a desecration of His name, a crime against those who are created in His image, and a debasement of faith. The proper means of solving conflict and disagreement is by negotiation and deliberation only,” the statement said.
“We vehemently call for the cessation of incitement, misrepresentation and distortion of the image of the other and of the neighbor. We commit ourselves to educate future generations to uphold mutual respect.”
The declaration also called for a solution to the conflict that “recognizes the right of the two peoples to exist with dignity,” and urged Israeli and Palestinian leaders to work towards that goal.
The summit and declaration came after months of behind-the-scenes work by former government minister and coexistence activist Rabbi Michael Melchior, who heads the Mosaica Center coexistence group.
Other Palestinian Muslim leaders participating in the summit included leading Sharia scholar Sheikh Raed Badir; Secretary General of the World Muslim Conference for Jerusalem of the Union of Islamic States Dr. Izzat Jaradat; former member of the Shura Council of Hamas Prof. Fakher Abu Awad; head of the Southern Branch of the Islamic Movement Sheikh Hamad Abu Dabes; Sharia judge in Gaza Dr. Maher Khuder; and Dr. Mahmoud al-Habash, the head of the religious justice system of the Palestinian Authority.
Jewish religious leaders attending the summit included Ramat Gan Chief Rabbi Yaakov Ariel; Kiryat Ono Chief Rabbi Ratzon Arusi; Or Yehuda Chief Rabbi Zion Cohen and various yeshiva leaders.
The Melchite Archbishop George Bakuni, Latin Bishop of Jerusalem William Shomali, Lutheran Bishop Munib Younan and Greek-Orthodox Metropolitan Timotheos Margaritis also participated in the summit.
The Religious Leaders for Peace in the Middle East Summit was organized by the Adam Centers for Dialogue of Civilizations and The Mosaica Religious Peace Initiative and was hosted by the Spanish government.