Our man in Berlin

September 22, 2015 by J-Wire News Service
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The 2015 Muslim Jewish Conference, which brought nearly 150 young “current and future change-makers” together for an intensive residential programme in the outskirts of Berlin, exposed delegates from more than 40 countries to unique interfaith experiences of Australia and the Asia/Pacific region, presented by Jeremy Jones.

Jones is the Director of International and of Community Affairs of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council in Sydney.

Jones [centre] at the conference

Jones [centre] at the conference

The week-long conference focused on correcting misconceptions, breaking down stereotypes and finding areas for common endeavour, with this year’s participants bringing the total alumni over the six years of the programme to over 600 people.

Muslims from countries as diverse as Sudan, Pakistan, Argentina, Malaysia, Finland and Turkey engaged with Jews from six continents. countries including Switzerland, Morocco, Azerbaijan and Brazil, with a broad array of religious affiliation and cultural heritage.

Israelis and Palestinians included Jewish residents of both sides of the “Green Line”, and Muslims from Jerusalem, Nazareth, Ramallah and elsewhere.

Most of the programme was conducted by and for the participants, guided by a team of expert educators, programme designers and innovative thinkers who had been involved in earlier MJC events.

The only off-site events were the official opening by German government officials, a dialogue with the US Government’s special envoys on antisemitism and on relations with Muslim communities and a two-part session on genocide, which included presentations from survivors and experts on the Shoah and the Bosnian and Rwandan Genocides.

Jeremy Jones, with Sheikh Ibrahim Hussein from Toronto, led two sessions – the first on interfaith dialogue and the second dealing with “tough questions” from participants, on subjects covering a broad range of matters such as the place of Jerusalem in Judaism, women’s roles in religion and similarities and differences between streams of Judaism and Islam.

“There was tremendous interest in my recent interfaith dialogue trip to Indonesia, the origins and development of the Australian national Dialogue of Christians, Muslims & Jews, specific programs such as those run by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, the South Australian Children of Abraham, the JCMA and the Women’s Interfaith Network, as well as the Asia Pacific regional interfaith Dialogue and joint inter-religious social justice initiatives”, Jeremy Jones reported

In addition, he was available to privately discuss Judaism and Jewish life with interested participants, which he said “seemed to involve most of my days from 7am until 2am!”.

“From the opening ice-breaking activities until the conclusion with a joint celebration of Havdalah, participants were challenged and engaged, with seemingly boundless energy, enthusiasm and motivation to learn”, Jeremy Jones said.

“For the impressive, extraordinary young people who devoted the week to the MJC, it was a unique, sometimes their first, opportunity to engage with ‘the other'”, he noted.

“A number of those present had taken risks in the past in pursuit of ideals, including dialogue, and their courage and commitment contributed greatly to the proceedings”, Jones added.

“In addition to answering a seemingly endless stream of questions, my key role was to share my positive experiences of dialogue in Australia and throughout the Asia/Pacific Region, as well as to help place the activity of this impressive constellation of young leaders in the context of Jewish-Muslim relations globally”, he reported.

“Every person present contributed to helping others learn, to change, to transform – and to be better prepared for the work of  addressing a vast array of challenges in each country and globally”, he concluded.

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