NEW YORK (Jan. 4)
Twenty-five women — Catholics, Protestants and Jews — will leave tomorrow for a 17-day Women’s Interreligious Study Tour of the Middle East, it was announced by the American Jewish Committee. They will visit Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Israel.
Plans have been made for the group to meet with women on all levels of society in each country, in an effort to secure new insights into the Middle East conflict by reaching sources of opinion previously unknown in the West. They also hope to learn more about the life-styles of Arab and Israeli women, and to stimulate an inquiry into how women can work together toward peace in the Middle East.
The tour group, whose members come from eight states and Canada, includes a physician; a Presbyterian minister; a college professor; an arbitration expert; two editors; a photographer; a college vice president; four Roman Catholic nuns and four housewives. It also includes a social welfare consultant, an interreligious dialogue specialist, a Head Start teacher, and several communal and religious lay leaders. Two of the participants are candidates for the position of Moderator of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., the highest elected role in that religious body.
The tour is co-sponsored by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (Roman Catholic), United Presbyterian Women, and the American Jewish Committee, in cooperation with the Division of Overseas Ministries of the National Council of Churches.
It will have three co-leaders: Sarah Cunningham, editor of the United Presbyterian women’s journal, “Concern”; Sister Ann Patrick Ware, associate director of the National Council of Churches’ Faith and Order Commission; and Inge Lederer Gibel, program specialist in the Interreligious Affairs Department of the AJCommittee.
ADDING A NEW ELEMENT
Describing the group discussions on the Mideast that have been held at regular intervals for the past year and a half, Ms. Gibel called them “an effort to separate the facts and fantasies, prejudices and commitments that shape our attitudes to the Arab-Israeli conflict. We have discussed and debated the issues of the Middle East, based on the information that has been available to us here. Now we hope to broaden our understanding of these problems by obtaining new insights from the people directly involved in them — especially from the women of the Middle East, Jewish, Moslem and Christian.”
Sister Ann Patrick Ware supported the idea that women-to-women discussion of the Middle East situation would add a new element to the international dialogue on this subject. “To talk to Middle Eastern women about how the conflict has affected their lives is to hear another to silent voice,” she said. “We know what the political leaders of the Middle East have said for the public record, but we have no way of knowing what ideas and feelings are held by those who have little or no political voice.”