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Could peace in the Middle East start in Canada?

New ‘Abraham Global Peace Initiative’ aims for peace among world religions.

On October 10 Avi Abraham Benlolo, a prominent Canadian expert in Holocaust studies, joined the Global Imams Council’s Interfaith Network. Perhaps it seems odd that a Canadian who has devoted his life to support Israel, who received an honorary doctorate from the University of Haifa in recognition of his work combating anti-antisemitism, would be welcome with an international body of Muslim religious leaders spanning all Islamic denominations and schools of thought. But Benlolo’s invitation to serve on the interfaith network is one more sign of a growing desire of people of Abrahamic faiths to work together to recognize peace in the Middle East.

The Global Imams Council made a point of saying that they supported Benlolo’s latest venture: the brand-new Abraham Global Peace Initiative (AGPI). Benlolo is the founder of this Canadian global human rights organization which started “in backyards in Thornhill, and backyards in midtown Toronto,” says Melissa Lantsman, community advocate. High-profile Canadian politicians, lawyers and military form the organization’s board. Guests and speakers at the launch, which took place in early October, included UN representatives of Australia, Austria, Italy, Morocco, Nigeria, Panama and Slovakia, the Deputy Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations, and diplomatic representatives from Israel, UAE and Bahrain.

“Peace in the Middle East is within our grasp,” the AGPI website reads. They aim to advance human knowledge and understanding “through the study of and research into international human rights, fundamental freedoms, democracy, global peace and civil society in Canada, Israel and around the world.”

Bob Rae receives Human Rights Award

AGPI hopes to see more Arab states join the Abraham Peace Accords. “The Abraham Accords between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan shows us that peace is possible and collaboration is critical in this effort,” says Bonlolo. He believes that the preparation of peace is a task Canada is especially equipped for. At the launch, the initiative’s first Human Rights Award was presented to Canada’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Bob Rae, former Premier of Ontario and leader of the Liberal Party, for “his work in advancing human rights.”

Even with this positivity about Canada’s position to “motivate peace,” the organization recognizes antisemitism and racism on the rise here in Canada. Combating antisemitism is a communal work, too. The same week that Benlolo joined the interfaith network of the Global Imams Council, the Council unanimously voted to accept the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism. “Our organization continues on the path of building bridges throughout the world with the Abrahamic faiths and all peoples. It is only through this process that we can eradicate hate and intolerance,” said Benlolo.

At AGPI’s launch Raheel Raza, Canadian journalist, called the initiative “the most challenging initiative to be launched in recent times.” She quoted Hans Kung: “‘No peace between Nations till there is peace among religions: no peace among religions till there is dialogue among religions.’ AGPI is a portal for global dialogue and peace and I am honoured to be part of it.”

  • Maaike is a freelance writer from Ontario and raised in Africa, where her heart stayed. Her degree is in Intercultural Service and World Arts.

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