Passover, Easter and Ramadan; Dialogue Across Borders

Sent On: 
Wed, 2022-04-13
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We are fully aware of the languages such as Arabic, English and Chinese. To understand people with a different language we need to learn its vocabulary and grammar.


The same applies to different religions. Religions pass over stories that aim to have meaning for us in our daily life. Religious scholars and clergy from different religions tell the believers those ancient stories with the aim to provide ‘tools for life’ as Rabbi Moshe Peleg from Jerusalem calls this. Humans are faced with numerous difficulties in life such as nowadays the war between Russia and Ukraine which is resulting in much pain and suffering. Religions help us to understand human psychology, dealing with hatred and darkness in life, and offer us hope for a better future, including promises for a better life in the life hereafter. They can give true believers tremendous strength as, for example, can be seen in Mel Gibson’s story of the late Desmond Doss (1919-2006), a devout Seventh-day Adventist who refused to carry a weapon due to religious beliefs while serving as a combat medic in the Second World War.   


In providing strength and hope religion makes use of its own stories, terminology and metaphors. When one religious Jew speaks to other religious Jews, they will understand this language but to a Christian or Muslim their stories may sound strange. Of course, this also applies to Christian or Muslim stories which people from other faiths may either not understand or believe to be in violation of their own beliefs.


The core stories of redemption in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, come together during these days. Jewish Passover starts April 15 and lasts until April 23. Western Easter is on April 17. The Orthodox celebrate Easter on April 24 while Muslims fast during the Holy month of Ramadan that started on April 2 and will probably end on May 1 (depending on the sighting of the moon).


During Pesach, Rabbi Moshe Peleg said during a lesson on April 10, “we celebrate freedom and redemption. We are slaves since we want to be accepted in society,” the rabbi says. “We are also influenced by advertising for consumption products. We also can be the slaves of our own personal history, of our character traits. We humans are like a flock of sheep. During Pesach God shows His love without conditions. In Pesach I am released from the past, from anything in this world and even our future. Because God loves us, we need to give to charity. We need to take care of the poor.” Rabbi Moshe Peleg refers to the Tenach or Old Testament, to the Jewish sages and to Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810) who says that one is either a slave of God or a slave of human beings. “That is why the Tora was given to us as an instruction book. Just as a musician needs to train him/herself in order to be fully free in making music so we need to follow the instructions of the Tora to be fully free. These provide us with lessons for our daily life. We can work on our own personalities and behavior but we cannot influence politics and thus do not take news too serious,” Rabbi Peleg advises. “You have to accept the past, try to discover why God has brought you in a certain situation and respond to that according to His teachings.”


Rev. Maarten Groen spoke on April 10 about Luke 23: 33-49 and 1 Peter 1: 13-21. Peter speaks about redemption that cannot be obtained with perishable things such as silver or gold but “with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” This is based on the shared stories with Judaism and new elements from Greek thinking. Israel was liberated from Egypt through smearing blood on the door posts. Only with this the angel of death would not enter these houses but families in houses without blood on the doorposts lost their first born. Later in the temple animals were slaughtered. That is salvation through blood. Now God gave His son in order to make us free. Just as Rabbi Peleg does also Rev. Groen applies this ancient story to us today. On one day people cheered Jesus and a week later the same people screamed “crucify him.” This is how we humans are with rapidly changing moods. People standing around the cross all behave differently. Some mock Jesus, others, his friends, weep, the Roman centurion, “seeing what had happened, praised God and said, Surely, this was a righteous man.” How do we respond to Jesus on the cross, Rev. Groen asks. Others look at the political implications of this text. The oldest still remaining fragments of Luke date to the late 2nd century. That was a moment that the early church and the Jewish community had already grown apart. Were perhaps Roman friendly elements inserted to please the then Roman rulers? But those rulers were, at times, also persecuting Christians. The fact that we do not know has led to speculations.


Also, in Islam stories of the Qur’an and the Sunna are recalled for guidance in the lives of the believers today. No single person is mentioned more in the Qur’an than Musa (Moses). Musa and pharaoh are of key importance in the Meccan verses while Jesus features more in the Medinan verses of the Qur’an. These stories are mostly unknown by Jews and Christians which makes it difficult for them to understand why Muslim believers may rally around them.


In Judaism the focus is on life in this world, not so much in the life hereafter. This is very different in Christianity and Islam. In 1 Peter 1: 9 belief results in joy “for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” The idea of a soul was already found in ancient Egypt. The ancient Egyptians believed that for the soul to go to heaven, that person must have led a good life on earth. The Greek philosophers Socrates (470-399 BCE) and Plato (428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BCE) saw the soul as the inner eye of the human being. With death the body and the eternal soul part. This belief was brought into Christianity and later Islam and was developed further.


In the history of ideas and beliefs we see people developing older ideas and beliefs, keeping elements as freedom and caring for the poor but also developing new stories and with this a new language may develop that with changes in the narratives may become difficult to understand for non-believers. It is our responsibility to try to understand the different religious languages and once we understand how they have developed we will also become more accepting of differences. This is what is meant with our new name, Dialogue Across Borders. We have to continuously search for emerging perspectives on intercultural and interreligious relations. This brings us to the quote of Hans Küng (1928-2021):


“No peace among the nations without peace among the religions.

No peace among the religions without dialogue between the religions.

No dialogue between the religions without investigation of the foundation of the religions.”


Wishing our Muslim readers a blessed Ramadan, Christian readers a blessed Easter and our Jewish readers a blessed Passover.



April 13, 2022


Cornelis Hulsman, Editor-in-Chief