on the hill

Abraham Accords Caucus urges State Dept. to back interfaith dialogue among signatories

Lawmakers call for a congressional briefing and new grants to support programming

Alex Brandon/AP Photo

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan and Bahrain Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, stand on the Blue Room Balcony during the Abraham Accords signing ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020, in Washington.

Members of the Congressional Abraham Accords Caucus are urging the State Department to launch new programming to facilitate interfaith dialogue among countries party to the Abraham Accords, potential signatories and the United States.

The lawmakers — Sens. Joni Ernst (R-IA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and James Lankford (R-OK), as well as Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Brad Schneider (D-IL), David Trone (D-MD) and Ann Wagner (R-MO) — note in a letter to U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom Rashad Husain that the September 2020 agreements between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which Morocco and Sudan later joined, include language encouraging interfaith and intercultural dialogue. The letter was sent yesterday.

“We applaud the efforts initiated by a number of U.S. partners in the Middle East who are pursuing religious freedom initiatives and which are seeking cultural understanding across faith traditions. However, persecution and discrimination of religious groups persist throughout the region,” the letter reads. “The Abraham Accords have the potential to anchor Middle Eastern security cooperation, economic prosperity, and cultural exchange grounded in mutual understanding.”

The lawmakers urged Hussain to launch a grant program to support dialogue among Christians, Muslims and Jews in the nations that signed onto the Abraham Accords and “potential signatory countries,” as well as brief the caucus on the State Department’s work on the subject by March 1.

“We commend the bipartisan co-chairs of the Abraham Accords Caucus for encouraging the State Department to promote interfaith grants to strengthen efforts to build the bonds fostered by the Abraham Accords and to encourage other Arab nations to reduce barriers and advance peace,” William Daroff, the CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, told Jewish Insider. “Opportunities for further engagement and interfaith dialogue in the spirit of the original agreement are critical to achieving peace and ultimately saving lives in the Middle East.”

Subscribe now to
the Daily Kickoff

The politics and business news you need to stay up to date, delivered each morning in a must-read newsletter.