Arab religious leaders visit Rome synagogue


ROME (JTA) – An interfaith delegation from Bahrain and other Arab countries met with Italian Jewish leaders at Rome’s main synagogue.

Rome’s Jewish community president, Ruth Dureghello, called Friday’s encounter historic.

“You will always find our doors open to fight together for a world that is more free, to reinforce the challenge of dialogue,” she said.

Led by the Tunis-born French imam Hassen Chalghoumi, who is known for his opposition to extremism, the group included Muslims as well as representatives of the Eastern and Orthodox Churches, Buddhists and Sikhs. Most came from Bahrain but others were from Egypt and Lebanon.

In Rome, the delegation is meeting with various faith communities.

Rome Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni called their visit to the synagogue “a great act of courage.” The great challenge today, he said, according to media reports, “is not the conflict between religions, but to find an interfaith accord among the moderates of different religions, against the extremists. We have to work together for this and I hope that from this event will be born many other avenues of collaboration.”

During the meeting, the group held a minute of prayerful silence to recall victims of terrorism and, in particular, the people killed in terror attacks at the Bataclan music venue and other places in Paris one year ago Sunday.

“We are here to say no to barbarism and hatred and to launch a clear signal that we are stronger than they are and we will not let them divide us,” Chalghoumi said, according to media reports. “Today we are launching a message of hope in the fight against terror. We must resist against fanatics, unite, and fight this battle together.”

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