To the editor of THE EAGLE:
On Thursday, Aug. 7, a unique, hope-filled and I would dare to say sacred event took place at Bard College at Simon’s Rock: the Music in Common Youth Summit. Twenty young people, 10 from Israel and 10 from the United States, gathered for a week of music- making, conversation, study and peace across religious and cultural lines. I was a part of the youth summit’s inter-faith panel with Imam Salim Chishti and Rabbi Joshua Breindel.
The MiC Youth Program grew out of a backyard musical jam session organized by musician, writer and producer Todd Mack in honor of his late band mate, Daniel Pearl. Mr. Pearl [formerly of The Eagle], while working for The Wall Street Journal, had been brutally murdered by Islamic fundamentalists and his gruesome execution broadcast on YouTube. At first, Mr. Mack was sickened and angry by this senseless act of religious/political terrorism, but in time he turned his fury into action by giving birth to the MiC events. His organization cooperates with 200 different communities across the U.S., Middle and Far East using music as a bridge to both understanding and trust-building.
What I experienced during our inter-faith summit was inspirational, especially in the current climate of war, hatred and stalemate in Israel and Palestine. There were Israeli and American youth talking to one another and raising hard questions about one another’s realities but all in the spirit of cooperation. As one young Israeli said out loud, "This almost never happens in my homeland given the current political climate.
As more than a few participants said at the close of our program: "seeing a Christian, a Jew and a Muslim sit together, talking profoundly about hard things -- seeing you laugh and honestly care about one another -- this is startling and hopeful. It doesn’t happen much where I come from." Each participant promised to return to their homes committed to "bursting the bubble" of silence and hatred that all too often prevails in these polarized times.
When most of us can only weep and despair about the state of Palestine and Israel, Mr. Mack and those involved in MiC are taking small and compassionate steps to change the status quo. I left aware of the gravity of their music-making but also filled with a sense of modest hope. I am grateful to live in a community dedicated to such visionary creativity. I hope other Berkshire residents are too.
THE REV. DR. JAMES LUMSDEN
The writer serves the First Church of Christ.