Catholics, Jews and Muslims in dialogue at the WYD22 July 2013
For the first time in the World Youth Day history, there was an encounter between young people of the three great monotheistic religions. Sunday, 21st, 150 young Catholics, Jews and Muslims met at the auditorium in the PUC University for a seminar sponsored by the Interreligious Youth of Rio de Janeiro (JIRJ, in Portuguese) in order to celebrate “unity in diversity” and put into practice dialogue, going down to the smallest details. For example, the organizers decided not to offer any refreshments during the interval in order to respect the Muslim fasting period of Ramadan.
Inside the auditorium, there were many young people wearing T-shirts belonging to various parishes or Catholic movements, Jewish boys with kipa and girls with the hijab, the typical Muslim headscarf. Some came from other countries, such as Nicaragua, Bolivia and Algeria. On the panel, there were young people like Fernando Celino, from the Muslim Beneficent Society of Rio de Janeiro, who reported their experience in the pursuit of interreligious dialogue: “I started going to the Commission for Combating Religious Intolerance, which met at a umbanda (an African religion)”, he recalled. “Although I never felt any prejudices against other religions, this meeting helped overcome certain stereotypes I had in my mind and especially, I made great friends.”
“We recognize God as creator” explained the Catholic Aline Barbosa, coordinator of the ‘Pastoral da Juventude’. “From there, we recognize ourselves as brothers and sisters, ready to love our neighbour.” For this, Rodrigo Baumworcel, from the Hillel Jewish Association, said: “Prayer serves as a bridge between religions.”
This interreligious dialogue experience in Rio de Janeiro is not restricted to university level students. There are also a primary and secondary schools participating. Santo Inácio (Catholic school) and Liessin (Jewish school) have launched the project ‘Open Doors”, in which students from one school visit the students of the other school. In recent months, Muslims (who do not have their own schools in this city) are also participating by attending such visits and answering to questions from these school students about Islam. This experience motivated, in the final plenary meeting, a proposal of coexistence among students of educational institutions belonging to different religions. Moreover, young people have proposed conducting social and cultural activities together as a means of promoting dialogue among religions.
We cannot ignore the presence of “adults” during this seminar. The opening of the meeting included officials like Saudi Sheikh Mohammed Hamed Wali Khan, Argentinian Rabbi Abraham Skorka, a personal friend of Pope Francis, and Msgr. Orani Tempesta, Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro, who stressed the importance that “young people announce to the world that it is possible to build a world of brotherhood and peace.”
Interesting to note that those people who were not fasting could buy some refreshments from a canteein located in the vicinity of the auditorium and run by a Muslim!
Airam Lima Jr.