The Scottish interfaith Pilgrimage to Israel/Palestine was an ambitious and imaginative project. The people involved represented 7 faiths. Israel has 3 main Faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. For some of the people whom we met in Israel this phenomenon puzzled them. The very fact that 7 Faiths could meet together, plan and cohere must, I think, have created some satisfaction in the minds of people, ranging from peacemakers to sceptics that interaction is not just possible but actual.
The Pilgrimage did not have specific purposes. For me, the purpose was to obtain knowledge, understanding, and some interpretation of what `the Other` in our Group thought of each of the other faiths, and, in turn, of the three faiths in Israel/Palestine.. It was fact-finding. This is laudable in our age of ignorance.
I do believe that some of our members were shocked to view and listen to ignorance, anger and hatred on the part of some Israelis and Palestinians. Fact-finding was in short supply in the minds of some Israelis and Palestinans. Reality is such: the making sense of negative and positive aspects of peoples' socio-religious narratives.
The value of the Pilgrimage lies in its boldness and imagination. It was a visit into the unknown. It gives hope and confidence that a Scottish--based group could provide a forum for issues that may arise in Scotland on account of ignorance and prejudice albeit, I would hope, not to the extent of what we saw and heard in Israel. A group has been formed which could provide a forum for action and education.
My report is not pessimistic. It is based on moderate realism. Understanding can lead to insight, and insight to action, either of reparation or engagement.
Michael Conroy is a Roman Catholic priest, who studied for MA in Psychology of Jewish-Christian Theology at Cambridge University. He is an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society with a practising licence both as a Chartered Psychologist and Chartered Scientist.