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Ronald J. Young, executive director of the U.S. Interreligious Committee for Peace in the Middle East, will speak on “Religion: Source of Violence or Source of Peace?” at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 31, in the auditorium of Kirby Hall of Civil Rights at Lafayette.

Young founded the U.S. Interreligious Committee for Peace in the Middle East in 1987. The national organization of 2,500 American Jews, Christians, and Muslims, including prominent leaders of all three communities, works for peace in the Middle East based on the deepest values in the three traditions. The committee carries on programs across the United States of dialogue, education and advocacy in support of active U.S. policies to encourage comprehensive and lasting peace between Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab states.

“I can unreservedly recommend Ronald Young as a speaker,” says Rabbi James S. Diamond, former president of the National Hillel Directors Association. “He is knowledgeable in a sophisticated way about the issues; he knows the Middle East intimately, including key Arab and Israeli leaders; he is fair but does not talk around the hard problems; he is positive but hard-nosed and realistic; and he is wonderfully articulate. I have seen him address all kinds of audiences — Jewish, Muslim and Christian, separately and mixed — with great effectiveness. Ron provides a fresh persona to present and a refreshing perspective from which to discuss the Middle East. This is no small matter.”

Young has spoken and written widely on the Middle East and interfaith cooperation; taught a course on the Arab-Israeli-Palestinian conflict at Haverford College; arranged interfaith convocations for peace and interfaith prayer services; produced resources on religion in the search for peace; arranged high-level meetings with U.S. officials and with Israeli and Arab delegations to peace talks; and organized and led annual interreligious leadership trips to the Middle East. He and other leaders of the U.S. Interreligious Committee were invited by the White House to witness the signing of the historic Israel-PLO Declaration of Principles in 1993. Working with a nationwide network, Young provides action alerts to help counter partisan pressures in Congress that he believes undermine the Peace Process. Young also organizes national and local briefings focused on Israeli-Palestinian ideas considered benchmarks for possible mutually acceptable solutions to the Permanent Status issues.

Young is the author of Missed Opportunities for Peace: U.S. Middle East Policy, 1981-86. He was a Middle East representative for the American Friend Service Committee from 1982-1985, when he visited Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon to explore Arab and Israeli views about possibilities for peace and what the United States could do to help. From 1972-1982, Young was the committee’s national peace education secretary. He was youth secretary for the Fellowship of Reconciliation from 1965-1972, and national coordinator of the March on Washington for Peace in Vietnam Nov. 15, 1969. Young was a student at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., from 1960-1965, and a participant in the Student Interracial Ministry as assistant to the Reverend J.M. Lawson Jr., Memphis, Tenn.

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