11.21.23 News Article ImageOn Tuesday, November 21, HJI was pleased to co-host a panel discussion with the Higher Purpose Forum (HPF) entitled, "Perspectives on the Crisis in Gaza." Distinguished panelists presented varied perspectives on serious challenges and potential solutions associated with the recent tragic events in southern Israel and the Gaza Strip.

HPF Chair, James Edgerly, hosted this important event attended by over 150 participants.

Panelists included Dr Drissa Kone, HJI Associate Professor of Conflict Resolution and the Ministry, Dr. Andrew Wilson, HJI Professor of Scriptural Studies, and William Haines, Unificationist Pastor in North London, United Kingdom. The Q&A session from the audience was moderated by David Stewart, and final comments were provided by HJI President, Dr. Thomas Walsh.

Following participant Alan Wilding’s invocation, Dean of Enrollment Management and Student Life, Steven Boyd offered welcoming remarks on behalf of HJI, and gave a synopsis of the programs and activities advanced by the Graduate School. Mr. Edgerly then gave an overview of the work of HPF which, he explained, is “based on the ideas of Unificationism…[and] explores and disseminates a new, future-facing, God-Centered understanding in addressing challenging contemporary issues... and which seeks solutions that advance shared values, mutual prosperity and interdependence."

Dr. Drissa Kone began the panel presentations by sharing his insights on the current crisis from an Islamic perspective, interweaving both scriptural and political concerns. “The dispute between Israel and its Muslim neighbors is very complex, and dates back 4,000 years. The crisis goes back to Isaac and Ishmael, the two sons of Abraham. [...] Ishmael became the first Arab, and Isaac became the first Jew”. Such historical context is critical to gain a meaningful appreciation of how “the Promised Land is viewed differently by Muslims and Jews…” Dr. Kone concluded by underlining the importance of addressing the root causes of the crisis, not simply the elements of the current outbreak, and that this undertaking requires sensitivity to both sides of the issue.

Pastor William Haines shared a detailed analysis of providential factors underlying the modern-day Israeli-Palestinian conflict as outlined in the Divine Principle. He pointed to God’s efforts in history to raise up forces of goodness to subdue evil as part of the restoration of God’s ideal, and gave examples of such conflict between sovereign entities on the state, regional, and global levels throughout history. After a detailed narrative, Pastor Haines offered concrete suggestions for all parties concerned, and affirmed that any successful resolution of the conflict requires the constructive participation of Israel, Palestine, as well as regional and global powers.

Dr. Andrew Wilson stated that in the current situation the "fundamental problem, [...] is a lack of love." To address this root cause, Dr. Wilson recalled the past efforts of the Unificationist community to change the narrative of conflict through the work of the Middle East Peace Initiative (MEPI), led by the Universal Peace Federation. He affirmed that while MEPI produced positive, hopeful results some years ago, the effort in the Middle East must continue if it is to have lasting impact. Moving forward, Dr. Wilson emphasized that the issues faced in Gaza and the West Bank should be included in this process. He affirmed the two-state solution and stated that it should be implemented when the time is ripe "based on the principles of interdependence, mutual prosperity and universally shared values."

Following the Q&A session moderated by Mr. Stewart, Dr. Thomas Walsh expressed his appreciation for the varied viewpoints presented in the discussion, and noted that only the presence of universal love can bring unity out of marked division. He emphasized that HJI is committed to building strong, effective peace studies programs to address conflict in the Middle East and elsewhere, and that religious worldviews are a critical part of this process. “The great shift that is taking place globally in the spheres of religion, politics and economics is that religion is not just some marginal sphere but is integral to much of human identity. Therefore, as we try to address the issues holistically, we must develop our literacy and intelligence in the areas of political science, economics, social theory [and] religion.”

Watch the recording here.