Thistle, Nazareth, Israel 2001

Conference on Middle Eastern

Spirituality and Peace

Thursday 4 March 2004,The Quaker Meeting House, 7 Victoria Terrace, Edinburgh

Conference Welcome Letter from the organizers.

Photos from the Conference

9.00-9.30: Arrival and registration. Tea available.

Hall Room: 9.30-9.35: Welcome and Introduction: Rev Prof Frank Whaling.

Hall Room: 9.35-9.50: Prayer and Singing led by Dr Neil Douglas-Klotz.

Professor Frank Whaling and Dr. Neil Douglas-Klotz

Hall Room: 9.50 - 10.30: Presentation: Neil Douglas-Klotz, Ph.D
., internationally-known scholar of religious studies and psychology, is author of Prayers of the Cosmos, Desert Wisdom, The Hidden Gospel and The Genesis Meditations: A Shared Practice of Peace for Jews, Christians and Muslims. A former departmental head of comparative spirituality at Holy Names College in California, he now lectures worldwide. He is co-chair of the Mysticism Group of the American Academy of Religion and currently lives in Edinburgh, where he codirects the Institute for Advanced Learning. He founded the International Network for Dances of Universal Peace in 1982 and is a senior teacher of the Sufi Ruhaniat International through which he has led spiritually rooted peace-seeking journeys to Russia, Eastern Europe, Syria, Jordan, and Israel.  

Title of talk: Genesis Now! The Story that Jews, Christians, and Muslims Still Share.  

Download MP3 file of the talk (5.1 MB)

Theme of Talk : An ancient form of meditation unites the three religions of the Middle East. It focuses on the creation of the universe and the archetype of the first human being. It seeks to bring the energy and power of this "beginning-time" directly into the life of practitioners, so that they can experience the creation story as their own personal story. The hidden history of this practice in the three traditions actualizes much of their spiritual power. This ancient form of prayer focuses, not on a vision of the apocalypse, but on the tremendous power of creation as it is still unfolding in the universe and in one's own personal experience.   This 'original meditation' lies behind Christians' awe at the rebirth of the Christ Child each midwinter. It fuels the heartfelt hope of Jews in the New Year celebrations of Rosh Hashana. And it roots the devotion of Muslims each year during the fast of Ramadan. These are all celebrations of hope, not fear, and of love, not hatred. By experiencing the creation story as one's own personal story, we have the same opportunity to recreate and renew ourselves, as our ancestors did, and to find a deeper connection with the divine in our everyday lives. We can also participate in the one meditative practice that might unite our Christian, Judaic, and Islamic communities in a troubled world.  

Hall Room: 10.30-11.10: Presentation: The Very Reverend Dr Finlay Macdonald , Finlay Macdonald was Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland from May 2002 until May 2003. The office, which is an honorary one and held for one year only,   involves presiding at the Church's annual General Assembly and then undertaking a number of official visits on behalf of the Church, in Scotland and overseas. A particular theme of Dr Macdonald's moderatorial year was interfaith relations. In February/March 2003 he visited Lebanon, Syria and Egypt. Since 1996 Finlay Macdonald has held the senior administrative position of Principal Clerk to the General Assembly, and returned to this job after his year as Moderator.   He was ordained to the ministry in 1971 and over the next twenty-five years served in parishes in Clackmannanshire and Glasgow.


Theme of Talk : In his address to the Conference Dr Macdonald will give an account of his three week visit to the Middle East in the period immediately before the Iraq war. In particular he will talk of contacts with both Christian and Muslim leaders in Lebanon, Syria and Egypt. Dr Macdonald will also speak of the dialogue which has developed between leaders of the different faith communities in Scotland, through a series of meetings involving Baha'i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jew, Muslim and Sikh.

Download MP3 sound file of the talk (4 MB)


Hall Room: 11.10-11.15: Prayer: Christian Prayer for Peace read by The Very Reverend Dr Finlay Macdonald.


Hall Room: 11.15-11.50: Presentation: Rodef Shalom Eliyahu McLean : Eliyahu McLean is the Coordinator of the Jerusalem Circle, a network of spiritual peace activists. Eliyahu studied Middle Eastern Studies at UC Berkeley and in Orthodox Jewish yeshivas in Brooklyn, New York and Jerusalem. Eliyahu has initiated projects that integrate spirituality and peacebuilding in the Middle East. Eliyahu was recently ordained as a 'Rodef Shalom', 'Peace Pursuer' by Reb Zalman Schachter. Eliyahu's work for peace is described in the book 'At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden: A Jew's Search for God with Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land' by Yossi Klein Halevi.   See information on his work here.

Title of Talk: Reflections of a 'Peace Pursuer': spiritual peacebuilding in the Holy Land.


Theme of Talk : In a time when most of the world sees conflict emanating from the Middle East, Eliyahu McLean will share stories from the ground-where positive events often go unreported. Some of these events include the weekly Old City Peace Vigil, Jewish-Sufi prayer and study, "Sulha" reconciliation gatherings and working groups of religious leaders for peace. Eliyahu will examine the spiritual principles found in Jewish tradition and ancient Arab culture that can help provide a solution where political solutions have failed.


Hall Room: 11. 50-12.20: Presentation: Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bukhari : Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bukhari is the head of the Naqshabandi Sufi method in the Holy Land. Sheikh Bukhari's family came to Jerusalem from Bukhara 400 years ago, and their home has been a centre for visiting Muslim pilgrims and visitors of all faiths since then. Sheikh Bukhari is a leading Muslim voice for peace and reconciliation in Jerusalem. Sheikh Bukhari also hosts the Uzbek Cultural Centre of the Holy Land in his home.


Title of Talk: The Sufi Path to Spirituality and Peace in the Holy Land.  

Theme of Talk : Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bukhari will talk about his family's history as a long line of Sufi sheikhs in the Naqshabandi tradition living in Jerusalem. He will discuss the spiritual principles found in Sufism and how they can be applied to help bring inner peace and to bring a transform the conflict in the Holy Land. He will share about his involvement in interfaith initiatives for peace in the Mid-East with Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders.  

Download MP3 file of the talk (3.3 MB)

Hall Room: 12.20-12.25: Prayer: Sufi Prayer for Peace read by Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bukhari .


Hall Room: 12.25-12.55: Presentation: Rabbi Nancy Morris is currently the rabbi and spiritual leader of Glasgow New Synagogue in Newton Mearns, Glasgow. Raised and educated in Montreal, Canada, she received her M.A. and LL.B. degrees at McGill University. Rabbi Morris was also privileged to study in many different places throughout her career, including Vienna, Prague, and Jerusalem. After working as a lawyer in Toronto, she decided to follow her dream of becoming a rabbi. She carried out her rabbinical training at Leo Baeck College in London, England and spent her fifth-year student placement in Ontario, Canada as rabbi for two small congregations; Temple Shalom in Waterloo and Har Tikvah in Brampton. After ordination in July 2002, she continued as rabbi of Har Tikvah synagogue until moving to Glasgow in October, 2003.

Title of Talk
: Women's Spirituality for Peace.

Download MP3 file of the talk (2.7 MB)

Hall Room: 12.55-1.00: Prayer: Jewish Prayer for Peace by Rabbi Nancy Morris


Library Room: 1-2: Lunch.


2-3:15 Two Parallel Workshops.


Hall Room: Workshop 1: Dr Neil Douglas-Klotz , see above.


Title of Workshop: Genesis Now! A Shared Practice of Peace for Jews, Christians and Muslims.


Theme of Workshop: Beginnings Unite: A Shared Practice of Peace . All three faiths, in spite of apparent differences, share an emphasis on sacred beginnings. The afternoon workshop will use chant, meditation, body prayer, and sacred movement from the Aramaic Christian, Jewish and Sufi traditions to demonstrate a different way of looking at our shared past, present, and future. The aim is to reawaken the potential for sacred creativity and deep peace in our lives.


Library Room: Workshop 2: Rodef Shalom Eliyahu McLean and Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bukhari , see above .

Title of Workshop: "How Healing the Holy Land Can Heal the World: Jewish and Sufi Prayers for the Peace of Jerusalem."

Theme of Workshop : Rodef Shalom Eliyahu McLean and Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bukhari will share stories about their work together for peace between the Children of Abraham in Jerusalem. Eliyahu will talk about the Jewish-Sufi movement and the history of interfaith cooperation in the Middle East that can provide a model for today. Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bukhari will share teachings from Sufi tradition that support peace and understanding between the Abrahamic faiths. They will lead prayers for peace in Hebrew and Arabic followed by a Sufi 'zikr' ceremony designed to open the heart.

Download MP3 files of this presentation:

Part One: Discussion (3.2 MB)

Part Two: Jewish-Sufi Chanting and Remembrance Practice (3.9 MB)

3.15-3.45: Two Parallel Presentations.


Hall Room: Presentation 1: Dr. Moojan Momen was born in Iran, but was raised and educated in England, attending the University of Cambridge. He has a special interest in the study of the Baha'i Faith and Shi`i Islam, both from the viewpoint of their history and their doctrines. In recent years, his interests have extended to the study of the phenomenon of religion. His principal publications in this field include: Introduction to Shi`i Islam (Yale University Press, 1985); The Babi and Baha'i Faiths 1844-1944: Some Contemporary Western Accounts (George Ronald, Oxford, 1982) and The Phenomenon of Religion (OneWorld, Oxford, 1999). He has contributed articles to Encyclopedia Iranica and Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World as well as papers to academic journals such as International Journal of Middle East Studies, Past and Present, Iran and Religion. He is a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society and on the faculty of Landegg International University, Switzerland.  

Title of Talk: Mysticism and the Baha'i Community.


Download MP3 file of the talk (3 MB)

Library Room: Presentation 2: Malcolm Deboo : Malcolm Minoo Deboo has been the Librarian and Information Officer at the Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe Incorporated in London since 1990. The ZTFE was established in 1861 to look after the interest and welfare of the Zoroastrians of Europe including Britain. He manages the Zoroastrian Book Stall which stocks over 350 titles on Zoroastrianism and is the first point of reference at the ZTFE in disseminating information on the Zoroastrian religion, heritage and culture to anybody who is interested, including educational and interfaith establishments, local and national government agencies. Malcolm has been consulted by the University of Derby, London Boroughs of Camden and Westminster for their Multi Faith Directories and by authors of books on the Zoroastrian community in Britain and the first three Asian MPs in the House of Commons.   He was also the sole person in charge of supplying information on Zoroastrianism for the Faith Zone in the Millennium Dome. Malcolm has given papers on the subjects such as "Is Conversion a form of Religious Intolerance?", "Conversion & Genocide of the Zoroastrians of Iran", "Early Zoroastrian Identity in Britain". Later in the year he will be part of the Zoroastrian delegation attending the World Parliament of Religions in Barcelona, as he did in Chicago in 1993.


Title of Talk: Zoroastrianism: The Religion of the Soldiers of Truth, but has never been to war in the name of religion.


Theme of talk : The first Zoroastrian to visit the UK was in 1724 on a mission to seek justice. Zoroastrianism is the religion of the 3 Magi popularly known as the 3 Wise Kings and also of the first 3 Asian MPs elected to the House of Commons. The religion was first revealed to the world by Prophet Zarathushtra, known to the ancient Greeks as Zoroaster, over 3500 years ago in the region which today borders Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan. Zoroastrians are not pacifist, indeed the faithful are called asharvans "soldiers of truth", because they are constantly at war against evil! However, in its entire history Zoroastrianism has never been to war in the name of religion. The reason being that this war against evil can only be won, by the asharvan constantly performing good thoughts, good words and good deeds. Evil is everywhere and it is only through goodness that evil will be defeated and everlasting peace be obtained. Everlasting peace would lead to perfection and on to immortality! This paper will examine from a Zoroastrian perspective the purpose of creation by the Creator, the role of the saviour, the end of the world and paradise, together with the role of the immortal soul in creation combined with the importance of being good. It will highlight the path to everlasting peace and examine the spirituality of the Zoroastrian faithful in Iran who even under genocide and mass proselytising have done their utmost to maintain their ancient beliefs and practises.

Download MP3 file of this talk (3.6 MB)


Hall Room: 3.45 -3.50 : Prayer: Baha'i Prayer for Peace read by Dr. Moojan Momen .


Library Room: 3.45-3.50: Prayer: Zoroastrian Prayer for Peace read by Malcolm Deboo.


3.50-4.20 Two Parallel Presentations.

Hall Room: Presentation 1: Dr Arzina Lalani. A Research Associate at The Institute of Ismaili Studies, Dr Lalani is an Arabist with a doctorate in Islamic Studies from the Department of Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Edinburgh. She has previously taught Hadith Literature at the Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Cambridge, served as a mentor in Arabic at DeMontfort University and lectured for several years on Early Shi'i Studies at The Institute of Ismaili Studies. Her book, Early Shi'i Thought: The Teachings of Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (London, 2000) has been translated into several languages including Arabic, Persian and French. Following peer reviews, this work recently won a prestigious literary award in Iran as one of the distinguished books of the year ( Kitab Sal-e-Vilayat , 2002). Dr Lalani's forthcoming publication, The Apex of Humanity: A Philosophical Approach to the Imamate is a critical edition and translation of a Fatimid manuscript by Ahmad al-Naysaburi. She is a contributor to the Encyclopaedia of the Qur'an (Leiden), the Encyclopaedia of Religion , and the Dictionary of Islamic Philosophers amongst others, as well as an editorial board member on the Routledge Encyclopaedia of the Qur'an . She also regularly presents at national and international academic conferences.

Title of Talk: Articulation of Shi`i Ismaili Spirituality.


Download MP3 file of the talk (3.2 MB)

Library Room: Presentation 2: Prof Samy Swayd is a visiting Professor in Religious Studies and the Director of the Institute of Druze Studies at San Diego State University (SDSU). He holds a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies from UCLA.


Title of Talk: Druze Spirituality and Asceticism.

Due to unforseen difficulties, Professor Swayd was unable to join us in person. HIs talk was read by Professor Frank Whaling. Download a copy of the talk.


Hall Room: 4.20-4.25: Prayer: Ismaili Prayer for Peace read by Dr Arzina Lalani.

Library Room: 4.20-4.25: Prayer: Druze Prayer for Peace read by
Prof Samy S. Swayd.


4.25-5.00: Two Parallel Forum Presentations.


Hall Room: Forum 1: "Samuel L. Lewis and the Origin of Dances of Universal Peace as a Spiritual Practice for Peace" with Dr Neil Douglas-Klotz, Co-founder, The International Network for Dances of Universal Peace.

Download an MP3 file of this talk (2.9 MB)


Library Room: Forum 2: The Mathnawi of Rumi by Dr.Seyed G. Safavi, Director, London Academy of Iranian Studies, and Editor of Transcendent Philosophy Journal.

Download MP3 file of this talk (3.8 MB)


Hall Room: 5 .00-5:30 Questions and Discussion.



Neill Walker, The Edinburgh International Centre for World Spiritualities, EICWS,

Scottish Charity, SC030155, 4 William Black Place, South Queensferry, Edinburgh,

EH30 9PZ. Scotland. Ph: +44 (0)131 331 4469, email:


Dr Neil Douglas-Klotz, The Edinburgh Institute for Advanced Learning, EIAL,

7 East Champanyie, Edinburgh, EH9 3EL, Scotland, UK. Ph: +44 (0)131 466 1506,

email: ; and


Partial funding for the Festival and associated Conference was provided by the Oneness Project and the International Network for the Dances of Universal Peace.