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LSE students embark on first-ever interfaith trip to Holy Land

InterfaithA group of Christian, Jewish and Muslim London School of Economics students recently took part in a ground-breaking interfaith trip to the Israel/ Palestine.

The educational visit, which took place in early January and was led by the LSE Chaplain Reverend Dr James Walters and School Secretary Susan Scholefield, sought to show students the region from the perspective of the three Abrahamic faiths that have formed its history.

Put together in partnership with the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel, the programme enabled the students to meet groups and individuals of different religious identities and understand their perspectives on the region and its conflicts.

During the trip, students were hosted by Jewish families for a Shabbat meal in Jerusalem, stayed with Palestinian Christian families in Bethlehem, and visited a mosque that is working to build interfaith relations in Nazareth.

The trip brought challenging moments for many members of the group. One Muslim participant spoke about “an almost sinking feeling” on arrival in Israel,  but came on to understand more deeply the Israeli perspective, particularly after the visit to the Holocaust Museum: “What I saw in Yad Vashem felt really novel to me which was rather surprising for someone who had quite a fixed view on the Israel-Palestine conflict.”

interfaith tripAnother student, an evangelical Christian, spoke of how the interactions in the group itself challenged a lot of her preconceptions: “As a Christian, I was a bit too comfortable in my ignorance of Islam and Judaism and honestly believed I didn’t need to learn any more about my own faith.  This trip humbled me.”

Commenting on the importance of empathy in building good relations, graduate student Jack Palmer said:

“What became clear through the conversations we had and the experiences we shared is that interfaith work, reconciliation and peace making is a long and arduous road.

"Prior to the trip, I had expected – and maybe even hoped – to have my own views on the politics of the region clarified or affirmed in favour of one ‘side’ or the other. In reality, my compassion for all those I met, even those with whom I disagreed profoundly, dramatically increased.”

The students have returned to LSE to receive mediation training to be “Interfaith Ambassadors” as part of a new scheme to support good relations on campus. This scheme is an example of the type of work which will be undertaken through the new Faith Centre at LSE.

31 January 2014