News / Middle East

US Activist Spearheads Grassroots Mideast Peace Effort

In this Dec. 14, 2007 file photo, a Palestinian man argues with an Israeli soldier during a demonstration against Israel's separation barrier at the village of Bilin, near the West Bank city of Ramallah.
In this Dec. 14, 2007 file photo, a Palestinian man argues with an Israeli soldier during a demonstration against Israel's separation barrier at the village of Bilin, near the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Faiza Elmasry
While official peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians are restarting at the highest levels, ongoing efforts also continue on the grassroots level.

Frank Romano, who lives in Paris, has been working for the past eight years to try to resolve the decades-long conflict. Since 2005, Romano has made more than 40 trips to Israel and the West Bank, where he brings Christians, Jews and Muslims together for interfaith dialogue.

“Some people even tell me I’m wasting my time talking about religion because this is not about religion," Romano said. "The conflict between Israel and Palestine is about historical claims to land, not religion.”

The peace activist says religion is interwoven throughout the conflict and he believes misunderstandings and lack of communication among religious groups have contributed to its longevity. He leads interfaith dialogues and projects to change that.

In these sessions, small groups of people of different faiths get together to eat, listen to music and talk about themselves, their families and life.

“The Christian says, ‘They don’t accept Jesus as their savior like I do.’ Then the Muslim will come out and say, ‘They don’t understand Mohamed the way I do.’ And the Jew will say, ‘They don’t have the same impression of Moses as we do,’" he said. "I say 'OK. Let’s just pick the Torah, the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Quran and we'll just look at them.' After an hour or two, they are actually astounded. They know...in theory that there are similarities, but when they see it in writing, it brings home the point that they are not as different as their religious and some political leaders lead them to believe. They are starting to think ‘OK, we have separate religions, but we maybe we do share the same God.’”

Mahmoud Muna, 29, is a Muslim Palestinian who has come to several of these sessions.

“Due to the Israeli barriers, the separation wall, there is a lot of separation between Palestinians and Israelis," he said. "We’re not any more having the easiness and ability to meet, sit down and talk. That's really been a major problem because when people don’t meet, they can easily be manipulated by the media. They can easily see each other's different realities.”

Israeli Ruth Victor, a 61-year-old kindergarten teacher, has also taken part in Romano’s interfaith dialogues.

“When you talk, you don’t shoot," she said. "I think it's better to meet the Palestinians in a gathering like that than on the battlefield...I’ve never lost hope in a peaceful solution. I think it will come someday.”

Discussing religious views is just the first step in Romano’s interfaith approach. He also organizes projects that send people out to work together.

“Replanting olive trees, thousands of them have been uprooted to put the walls in. We try to go on both sides of the wall, rebuild buildings and make them international schools as opposed to yeshivas, or madrassas or parochial schools," Romano said. "The third step is that individuals or groups get together and pressure their governments to do the right thing, to make durable peace. It's possible as opposed to continuing the conflict.”

Romano believes it all starts with people understanding each other, recognizing similarities and respecting differences. Without that, he says, it will be hard to even hope for peace in the Middle East.

You May Like

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Carl Zaisser from: Vienna AUSTRIA
August 06, 2013 5:28 AM
This is great for the necessary reconciliation phase which should (must?) follow a JUST political settlement. Michael Lerner actually wrote some valuable stuff about the reconciliation phase in his book "Healing Israel-Palestine" though some of his political principles (e.g., the historical suffering of the Jewish people trumps the rights to the land of the Palestinian people to the land) are dubious and not based in international law and internationally accepted human rights conventions.

HOWEVER, the big problem is not the people; it's the total ignoring and denial by the United States, enabling impunity for all successive Israeli governments, of these same established pieces of international law and human rights conventions, e.g., UNSC 242, 338 and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN) that enables the less than desirable status quo.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid