Alumni News, CAPA

Torikashvili '22 organizes for peace: a Jewish-Muslim interfaith dialogue

Lika Torikashvili '22, Georgia's Youth Representative to the United Nations, hosted a Jewish-Muslim Peace Talk through her nonprofit, Network of Former Youth Delegates to the United Nations.

Torikashvili, who is also the founder of the international youth activist organization Paint the World, launched the Network of Former Youth Delegates to the United Nations with Ramiz Bakhtiar, a fellow UN Youth Delegate from Afghanistan. This Network is a rare example of interfaith dialogue in action, initiated and led by Lika Torikashvili and Ramiz Bakhtiar, who are ethnically Jewish and Muslim. 

The Peace Talk brought together Jewish and Muslim religious leaders and peace activists and highlighted the importance of interfaith dialogue and youth engagement as the main prerequisites of peace between Jews and Muslims. Together with Ramiz Bakhtiar (Former Youth Delegate of Afghanistan to the United Nations), Randall Fried (WJC, Diplomatic Corps), Imam Abdullah Antepli (Duke University), Rabbi Michael Cohen (Bennington College, The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies) Lika discussed how peace can become a reality, and what young people are doing to localize peace efforts.

“This is a second Jewish-Muslim Peace Talk, organized as a response to August 2022 Gaza-Israel Clashes. The idea to organize these talks came after the outbreak of violence, in May 2021, when the Israel-Palestine Crisis escalated," said Torikashvili. "I saw severe tensions between Jewish and Muslim students, hatred on social media, polarization which led to even more violence between young people. I wanted to do something about it, send a message of peace. Because that is what religions teach us, peace and love. I wanted to explore the possibility of peace, even though my peers are skeptical what peace is ever possible. My response to this war is to bring religious leaders together, and discuss the Jewish-Muslim peace, through  interfaith dialogue.”

About the Peace Talk and Speakers

The role of young people in peace and conflict resolution processes has been undervalued around the world, yet youth and children are disproportionately affected by violent conflicts. SGD16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institution sets reducing violence globally and protecting children from violence as keys targets. For this talk, Rabbi Michael Cohen and Imam Abdullah Antepli shared their views on how Israelis and Palestinians can make peace. They also explored solutions to the conflict between Israel and Palestine through religion, going beyond who is right and who is wrong. 

Michael Cohen is a visiting faculty member at Bennington College’s Center for the Advancement of Public Action, as well as a faculty member at The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies in Kibbutz Ketura, Israel. Since 2000, he has divided his time between Vermont and Kibbutz Ketura, Israel, teaching classes on Conflict Resolution and different aspects of Biblical Studies. Rabbi Michael is a longtime environmental activist and has written extensively on the impact of ecological issues on the Middle East peace process. 

Abdullah Antepli is an associate professor of the Practice of Interfaith Relations at Duke University Sanford School of Public Policy. He is a leader of cross-religious and cross-cultural dialogue in American higher education and in the non-profit world. He has built multiple organizations and initiatives to facilitate religious and spiritual life across America’s college campuses, sowing seeds of understanding between religions. Antepli is also a Senior Fellow on Jewish-Muslim relations at Shalom Hartman institute in Jerusalem, where he co-directors the Muslim Leadership Initiative. The NonProfit Times recognized Imam Antepli as one of their Power & Influence Top 50 leaders, calling him one of the most prominent Muslim leaders in higher education today.

Randall Fried is a Jewish Communal Professional based in Los Angeles, where he is the Director of Philanthropic Engagement & Communication at Tzedek America. For the past twenty years, Fried has also been engaged in Jewish education as an educator for teens and adults, working for a number of the most notable synagogues in Los Angeles. Also a historian, Fried has spent the past 13 years teaching Holocaust history and the Jewish history of Poland. He is currently an elected official in the City of Los Angeles, advocating for both communal and Jewish interests at the City and State level.