May 19, 2021 | Abrahamic Programs for Academic Collaboration in the MENA Region, University of Connecticut
UConn Abrahamic Programs (https://abrahamicprograms.uconn.edu) serves as an innovative academic umbrella that fosters cross-border research collaboration, intercultural communication, and community engagement to explore emerging trends and issues of critical importance in the Middle East and North Africa. It builds on the intellectual foundations of Abrahamic thought and its three monotheistic faiths—which emphasize the value of acquiring knowledge, using reason, and acting with wisdom—complemented by the long-standing Connecticut tradition of innovative thinking and scientific discovery. UConn Abrahamic Programs are grounded in this common epistemological heritage.
While this initiative is non-denominational, we recognize that the birth of all three monotheistic faiths initiated in the Middle East, spreading east and west with the Abrahamic culture in common. Thus, we acknowledge that religion can significantly shape cultural traditions, beliefs and inclinations. We also know that Christianity, Islam and Judaism all call on their people to use knowledge and reason for constructive purposes. Likewise, the three religions can form the basis for peaceful coexistence, mutual respect and local/regional understanding.
The current cycle of violence is devastating. The suffering of civilians in Gaza, the West Bank, and within Israel is so painful to see. A cease fire will come but it is essential to have a permanent resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Christians, Jews, and Muslims, humans of all faiths and all background, must unite in efforts to build sustainable peace. The teachings of peace and calls to end war and bloodshed have roots in the three Abrahamic religions. The Biblical Prophet Isaiah foresaw a day when:
“…they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”– (Isaiah 2:4)
Likewise, the Biblical Prophet Micah taught that one day war would end and “Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid…” (Micah 4:4)
And the Quran teaches that “The taking of one innocent life is like taking all of mankind… and the saving of one life is like saving all of mankind.” (Quran, 5:33)
Violence begets violence, suffering leads to more suffering. Within Israel, the sight of Arabs and Jews swept up in intercommunal violence in Acre, Haifa, Jaffa Lod, Nazareth, and Ramle, is heartbreaking. And yet, in response to the destruction of communal meeting spaces by violent mobs, neighbors of all backgrounds have joined together to clean their communities and rebuild together, reinforcing the societal bonds that form the basis of shared civilization and historical Abrahamic traditions. Social media campaigns in Arabic, English and Hebrew say “choose life, not violence” and “violence has no place in my religion.” You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Let us continue to promote dialogue, respect for all human life, and positive interactions of every kind, between students, faculty, and neighbors throughout the region, so we can look forward to a day where we will all pursue knowledge and understanding together and not learn war anymore. The pillars of the Abrahamic Initiative—acquiring knowledge, using reason, and acting with wisdom—establish a basis for trust, engagement, and a common language of respect. Let us learn together. Let us learn from one another. Let us live together in harmony.