The Children of Abraham
ABRAHAM IS A figure who is given a place of prominence among three of the world’s major religions – Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Each of these three religions traces foundational aspects of its faith to Abraham and for the respective adherents, Abraham is the father of the respective faiths. In the Bible for example, God is said to have made a promise to Abraham that he will be the father of many nations (Genesis 17:4). In Christianity, the genealogy of Jesus is traced to Isaac – Abraham’s son, and Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac is often viewed as a precursor to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. In Islam, Ishmael – Abraham’s firstborn son, is often seen as the fulfillment of God’s promise, and the Prophet Muhammad is considered to be his descendant. In Judaism, the promised offspring is understood to be the Jewish people descended from Abraham’s son, Isaac. Today, the children of Abraham account for well over half of the world’s population.
A few weeks ago, on the back of the signing of the United States’ (US) brokered Abraham Accord between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), I wrote about whether it was an indication that peace was finally coming to the Middle East. Of course, my conclusion was that this was unlikely in the short-to-medium-term given Iran’s continued nuclear ambitions, Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian territory, the myriad of proxy wars, the civil wars in Syria and Yemen, and the instability in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Notwithstanding the long road ahead for the peace process to become entrenched throughout the length and breadth of the Middle East, there is cause for optimism.
On September 15, 2020, Israel and Bahrain signed a peace agreement (Abraham Accord).
This was preceded by a similar agreement between Israel and the UAE a few weeks prior.
On paper, the Abraham Accords appear to have significant meaning. Afterall, the signatories have recognised the importance of maintaining and strengthening peace in the Middle East and around the world.
They are also encouraging efforts to promote interfaith and intercultural dialogue to advance a culture of peace among the three Abrahamic religions and all humanity. The parties are also seeking tolerance and respect for every person in order to make the world a place where all can enjoy a life of dignity and hope, irrespective of their race, faith or ethnicity. In commenting on the peace deals, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed hope that “peace will eventually expand to include other Arab states” and ultimately, “end the Arab-Israeli conflict, once and for all.”
If anything, the Abraham Accords are certainly well worded, and their intention seems noble. However, it takes much more than fancy words to bring about lasting peace. Decades of mistrust and tension will not go away overnight and all sides involved in these accords will need to be deliberate and consistent in their peace building efforts. We will recall the many attempts by US Presidents over the decades to broker peace between Israel and its Arab neighbours.
In the 1990s for example, President Bill Clinton brokered the Oslo Peace Accords between Palestinians and Israel. The Arab League as well as a quintet comprising the US, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations also sought to initiate a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. Failure was the common thread binding all of these initiatives.
As a student of the St. Vincent Grammar School in 2002, I was part of the Young Leaders Programme among secondary schools and the theme that year was “Nurturing a Culture of Peace: Our Heritage, Our Youth, Our Future”.
I often remember this theme because it is a reminder that each of us, in every society, deserves to live in peace.
However, peace remains elusive in too many households, communities and countries. Peace does not come about by accident, but we can all build peaceful societies when we embrace love instead of hate and when we opt for compassion and understanding over retaliation and strife.
Finally, in this world, we are more common that we are uncommon.
More than 50 percent of us are children of Abraham. Even more profound than this, 100 percent of us are part of the human family and this must count for something. Let there be peace on earth!