Published Monday, Nov. 17, 1997
Israel's Leah Rabin will get Westminster's peace prize
By Pam Mansell
Leah Rabin, wife of slain Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and an internationally known speaker on the subject of peace and the future of the Middle East, will receive an honorary doctor of peacemaking degree from Westminster College Tuesday evening in Orr Auditorium.
Mrs. Rabin is the sixth recipient of the peacemaking degree.
Before her there were Dr. Muhammad Sayed Tantawi, the Grand Mufti of Egypt and that country's highest authority on Islamic law; Dr. Samuel Habib, president of the Protestant churches in Egypt; Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire of Northern Ireland; the Rev. Dr. Raleigh B. Washington, founder of Our Salvation Evangelical Free Church in Chicago; and Glen A. Kehrein, founder of Chicago-based Circle Urban Ministries.
In granting the degree to Mrs. Rabin, Westminster Peace Center Director Dr. Robert VanDale said the college is not only honoring a world leader who is active in the quest for peace, it is helping fulfill the Peace Center's mission and its commitment to interfaith dialogue.
The Peace Center was born two years ago from the need VanDale and others saw to ``bring to the college what the Presbyterian peacemaking program brought to religious groups _ the vision of wholeness, well-being, of breaking down barriers.'' VanDale said those goals are part of the historic definition of peace and are embraced in the concept of the Hebrew ``shalom'' and in the Muslim ``salaam.'' They are also at the core of the Christian faith.
VanDale said that vision of peace, a fragile link among three diverse groups, undergirds the commitment of the Peace Center to establish a dialogue among Jews, Muslims and Christians.
Prior to this year, VanDale said, peacemaking degrees went to a Muslim and four others who represented ``the spectrum of the Christian community.'' With this year's degree going to Mrs. Rabin, a noted Jewish leader, the Peace Center affirms its commitment to include representatives from all three faiths.
The college had hoped to honor Mrs. Rabin a year and a half ago, VanDale said. Original plans had called for bestowing the peacemaking degree while Dr. Oscar Remick, Westminster's president, was on a trip through the Middle East.
The assassination of Mrs. Rabin's husband on Nov. 4, 1995, postponed those plans.
``It's important that the Peace Center recognizes and addresses religious pluralism,'' VanDale said. ``There are two prime issues for the Christian community today, two realities that have to be addressed. One is that there is religious pluralism right in our own back yards. The other is that the stereotypes that all religions have about others are being challenged. The questions that we all have to answer are: How do we, with integrity, relate to people of other religions? And how do they, with integrity, relate to us?''
Mrs. Rabin's visit comes at a time the Peace Center is planning to expand its work by establishing a mediation center that will serve Mercer and Lawrence counties.
``That would address the three priorities of the (Peace Center's) advisory council,'' VanDale said. Those priorities are the elimination of racism, anti-Semitism _ which in its ``broadest sense,'' VanDale said includes anti-Islam sentiments _ and the fostering of community empowerment.
VanDale said he met with the director of the Pittsburgh mediation center, and learned that the prime reason for failure of such centers is that there often isn't enough financial support to get an infrastructure in place. ``The No. 1 challenge is money,'' he said.
For a three-year startup of a mediation center, VanDale hopes to raise between $150,000 and $200,000. ``Our hope is to capture the attention and interest of all three (religious) traditions,'' he said.
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Updated Nov. 17, 1997
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