02 December 2010
Over 50 leaders of Muslim and Jewish communities from across Europe are to attend a one-day Gathering of European Muslim and Jewish Leaders in the European capital Brussels on Monday. They will discuss initiatives to deepen relations between the two communities and meet with the president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, to whom a joint declaration will be presented. The meeting is co-organized by the New York-based Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and the World Jewish Congress (WJC) and also sponsored by the European Jewish Fund and the European Jewish Congress.
Senior representatives of both faiths from Austria, Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United States are expected to attend the gathering. The initiative is aimed at improving Muslim-Jewish relations by bringing together local lay and religious leaders who have already been involved in inter-faith dialogue. The leadership of the European Union is expected to endorse the effort by receiving the group at the Commission’s headquarters and the Council, where a delegation will meet with Van Rompuy. At working sessions, participants will discuss how to better coordinate the various initiatives to maximize their impact in Europe. They will also take part in a diplomatic dinner attended by numerous ambassadors posted in Brussels.
“Fostering good relations between Muslims and Jews in Europe is critical if we want to offer the next generation a better future here,” Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of FFEU and vice-president of the World Jewish Congress, pointed out ahead of the meeting. He added: “And let’s not forget that these two religious minorities not only face common challenges – in the form of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, for example – they are also part of the European fabric of the 21st century. As we showed in America, when people talk with each other, and not just about each other, tensions can be reduced and trust built. In spite of our differences, we can do many things together – anywhere in the world. The Brussels gathering will jumpstart a movement that must spread.”
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