By Hanley, Delinda C.
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs , Vol. 21, No. 5
Washington National Cathedral was the dramatic setting for a May 5 interfaith prayer vigil for peace in the Middle East. Washington, DC Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious leaders shared the text and spirit behind "The Alexandria Document," an historical statement recognizing the sanctity of the Holy Land for all three faiths. The document also calls for an end to the "violence and bloodshed that denies the right to life and dignity"
Saif Rahman of the Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, VA, opened the evening vigil with the Muslim call to prayer. The Very Reverend Nathan D. Baxter, dean of the Washington National Cathedral, welcomed hundreds of worshippers from every faith and asked everyone to pray for their brothers and sisters in the Middle East.
Reverend Baxter said he had just received a call that the siege on the Church of the Nativity had been lifted as people were filing into the church to pray for an end to the standoff. He thanked God and blessed the peacemakers. Unfortunately, however, after churchgoers left the service they discovered Reverend Baxter's caller had been wrong. Israel still surrounded Jesus' birthplace and, in fact, the siege continued for another five days.
Rabbi Scott Sperling, director of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations in the Mid-Atlantic Region, read from the Hebrew Scriptures. Rabbi Jack Luxemburg, president of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington, shared his reflections that the deepest desire of the hearts and souls of all people is to live side by side in peace. "Each of our peoples have national aspirations for the land deemed holy by three faiths," Rabbi Luxemburg said. "We each believe that this land is our inheritance. The Alexandria Declaration shows that we can all live in the same Holy Land!"
Dr. Diane Sherwood, associate director of the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington, read a passage from the New Testament about a new Jerusalem. The Right Reverend Allen L. Bartlett, Assisting Bishop of Washington, described how Holy Land religious leaders gathered together to try to end the bloodshed and bring about a new Jerusalem where three religions could live in peace and reconciliation.
Leaders from the three faiths met together in a symbolic location, Bartlett said, the cathedral in Coventry, England, which was destroyed by Germans in World War II. …