An Empirical Study of the Effectiveness of Interfaith Dialogue for Peacemaking

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Abstract

This study used ethnographic methods to examine the efficacy of the Interfaith Encounter Association (IEA) in promoting peace in the middle of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The IEA is an apolitical organization based in Jerusalem that strives to build bridges between the Jewish and Arab people in the Holy Land through interfaith activities. Through participant observation of thirteen encounters and semi-structured interviews with ten participants, this study explores the effects of interfaith discourse on perceptions, emotions, and reconciliation attempts in the Holy Land. This paper argues that interfaith encounters do not negate or ignore the complexities inherent in the power dynamics between the Jewish and Arab people, the tensions upon initial interaction, or linguistic barriers; rather, these challenges remind participants of the political background and the hostility among people that this organization seeks to overcome. While scholarly debates still exist on the impact of dialogues that do not explicitly address political themes, the IEA’s endeavors in peacemaking demonstrate the efficacy of religion in establishing a common ground for peaceful interactions between Jewish and Arab communities.