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Interfaith group Jerusalem peace rally

JERUSALEM, Dec. 22 (UPI) -- Two people representing the Jews slowly, respectfully, approached yellow armchairs on a platform in Jerusalem's biggest park, Independence Park. The man, in a red gold-embroidered skullcap bowed and placed a silver crown on one seat. The woman beside him placed a robe on the other.

Both bowed repeatedly as spectators from 70 countries as far apart as Korea and the United States stood watching. Jerusalem police said it believed 8,000 people were there, Monday afternoon.

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"The (Jews) rejection of Jesus is restored and He is honored as King of Peace, welcomed by the Jewish people and embraced and loved as the Lord," declared Rev. Michael Jenkins of the Interreligious and International Federation of World Peace.

A Christian clergyman placed two thick candles on a low table in front of the yellow chairs. The next step was to honor the Prophet Mohammed. Two participants gave a Muslim in a white turban, Taj Hamad of Sudan, a black robe.

"The Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, is now recognized as God's prophet," declared Jenkins and spectators applauded. "We believe in Mohammed," he said.

Then two Muslims gave a Jewish professor a golden Menorah as a symbol of reconciliation with the Jews,

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"The best of what God gave you, you want to give to the other," said Taj Hamad.

The ceremony was partly designed to convey the idea that the three monotheistic religions must reconcile in order to advance peace in the Middle East. That would be a precursor for peace elsewhere in the world.

"We should break down all boundaries that divide people. We should live together in mutual respect and cooperation," advised Rev. Chung Hwan Kwak, Chairman of the IIFWP and the Interrligious and International Peace Council. Kwak is also Chairman and President of News World Communications, that owns United Press International.

"Peace cannot be achieved by external means alone... not by military force or diplomatic efforts alone," he asserted. "True peace is rooted in the individual person... and heart.... We must seek God. God is the origin and the foundation of peace," Kwak added.

Earlier Monday some 3,000 foreign participants toured the Temple Mount, site of the ancient Jewish temples and the third holiest site in Islam. They circled the gold domed Mosque of Omar whose heavy doors were shut but rows of women shoes and sneakers indicated Muslim worshippers were inside, praying.

At the edge of the compound, not daring to approach it lest they step on the site of the ancient Jewish Holy of Holies, a rabbi led Jewish orthodox visitors in beards and curly earlocks. Alluding the ruins of the temples, believed to be buried opposite them, the guide said: "That's the primary place from which Divine Presence emerges." The foreign visitors circled the mosque, some chanting "Peace. Shalom. Salam Aleikum. We pray for peace in the Middle East."

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Several hours later, dozens of angry Muslims screamed at Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Maher who went to the al-Aksa mosque. Police evacuated him under a barrage of shoes and he was later sent to a hospital for a checkup. Police could not say whether any shoe hit Maher.

According to Rev. Jenkins religious leaders can support the peace process, help keep it alive when political negotiations hit snags, and give it their blessing once an agreement is achieved.

"Without political leaders we cannot achieve peace," he said. However, religious people are in a better position to reach reconciliation. When an agreement is reached they should tell the people "Go with the accord," he said.

The process must begin in the Middle East because the Jewish people have the capacity to heal wounds, he told UPI. No major conflict can truly be resolved until the dispute here is resolved, he said.

Sheik Mohammed Khalil Kiwan, the Imam of Majd al-Kurum in the Galilee, said such a group "could introduce some pressure into the politicians' hearts."

Political Science Professor Eliezer Glaubach-Gal, a Jew, told UPI he believed the contours of a peace agreement with the Palestinians are clear. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon can remove settlements for peace -- he had done it in the Sinai in 1982 -- but Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is hesitating to reach an accord.

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The Palestinians may make the necessary decision once "there is an atmosphere that will bring Arafat to realize this is the road and that there are partners here," Glaubach-Gal said.

It is impossible to assess the effect a rally like Monday's would have on the decision-makers but it should be considered, "an expression of support for the spirit of peace," he said.

Across the fence ultra orthodox Jews criticized the organizers as missionaries. Jerusalem's Mayor, Uri Lupolianski refused to receive them, a spokesman for the IIFWP said.

Jenkins did not seem discouraged. "We have to work on it," he said.

"We believe that the children of Abraham are now on a path towards peace to become one.... When the religious leaders come together they give us spiritual power to break down the walls. This is what God gave Father and Mother Moon..... We are one family Muslims, Christians and Jews .... The International Peace Council will bring the spirit of God to the political leaders and then the road to peace will be secured," he maintained.

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