Thursday, February 26, 2009

More Light Than Heat: Muslim-Jewish-Christian Dialogue on the Middle East

“Can You Hear the Other Side?” - A panel discussion on the Middle East, with particular reference to Israel and Palestine.

An experiment in non-confrontational dialogue on the contentious issues of Israel and Palestine will take place at the Hubbard Interfaith Sanctuary at the College of Saint Rose on Sunday afternoon at 3.

Dr. Rashid Naim, a political scientist at Georgia State University who has appeared on CNN, NPR, BBC, and the Voice of America, will express a Muslim point of view while Dr. Ethan Bloch, a member of Albany’s Brit Tzedek v’Shalom (Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace) and a math professor at Bard College, will present a Jewish perspective. A Christian take on the issues will come from Dr. Karl Barbir, professor of history at Siena College.

The moderator for the session will be Paul Elisha, WAMC commentator and presenter of Performance Place.

The Interfaith Alliance of New York State, during the recent violence in Gaza, felt the need for calm dialogue in which the goal is to learn from each other rather than to score debating points. Co-sponsors are The Muslim Community of Troy, Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, Capital Area Council of Churches, Labor-Religion Coalition of the Capital District, and the Peace and Justice Commission of the Roman Catholic Diocese of

The dialogue process is aimed at listening to each other as openly and sympathetically as possible in an attempt to understand the other person’s position as precisely and as much “from within” as possible. In contrast to a debate, this kind of dialogue includes the challenging assumption that the other person’s position could be persuasive enough to cause changes in one’s own views.

The particular model for this dialogue process is the “Dialogue Decalogue” by Leonard Swidler, first published in 1983 in the Journal of Ecumenical Studies. It has been translated into more than a dozen languages and can be found on the internet at, slightly adapted for secular as well as religious dialogue.

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