Abraham, the biblical figure, has taken on a renewed appeal among Jews, Christians and Muslims seeking reconciliation and peace.
Time (Sept. 30) magazine reports that especially since 9/11 and its one year anniversary, there has been a flurry of new initiatives and groups claiming the importance of the biblical patriarch in their interfaith work. All three religions have long taught — and fought over — the importance of Abraham to their faiths. A staple premise of the interfaith movement since the late 1800s was that Abraham was a major factor in understanding and respect between the three faiths.
Judaism, Christianity and Islam have traditionally seen Abraham as a father of their faiths; In Islam, for instance, daily prayers cite Abraham and he his cited as building the Ka’aba, the central shrine of Mecca. This commonality has, especially since last September, led interfaith activists to schedule Abraham lectures, Abraham speeches and even “Abraham Salons” around the country and overseas. There are new books on Abraham and a group called Children of Abraham Institute in Charlottesville, Va., organizes intensive three-way scriptural studies modeled on Abraham’s hospitality to strangers.
But the interfaith closeness also faces millennia-long strife over the role of Abraham, especially concerning question of the exclusiveness of Abraham’s covenant with God and what this implies for Israel and the Palestinians today. Bruce Feiler, author of the new book, “Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths” (William Morrow) concludes that Abraham is a “flawed vessel for reconciliation, but he’s the best figure we’ve got.”