From Friday, May 25th Agrigento in Sicily hosted a three-day congress, promoted and organized by the ‘Fondazione Terzo Pilastro – Internazionale‘, entitled “Multaqa – Mediterranean of civilization and peace” that has been attended by researchers, politicians, economists, and historians from the Mediterranean countries to discuss cultural diversity and peace. The event marked the 20th anniversary of the first ‘Multaqa’ held in Agrigento in September 1998. In these twenty years, the term chosen to indicate the international conferences of the Mediterranean cultures of Islamic, Jewish, and Christian origins has been ‘Multaqa’, which in Arabic means ‘open and friendly meeting‘.

The apex and perhaps the most awaited moment of the whole conference has been the Round Table among the representatives of the three major monotheistic religions of the area (Christianity, Judaism, and Islamism). To discuss the delicate theme of a possible and necessary dialogue among the religions, three exceptional speakers: Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, expert in Canon Law and current Deputy Dean of the College of Cardinals, Rabbi Ariel Finzi, Chief Rabbi of Naples, and Elton Karaj, Imam of the Ethem Bej Mosque in Albania. Cardinal Re said: “The God who created us cannot be a reason for conflict between religions. They must all cooperate for well-being, progress, peace and cooperation among peoples. Every creed has its own characteristics and, of course, we must all be faithful to our religion, but at the same time it is essential to have trust and respect for others and safeguard the freedom of others: this is the only way to live together in harmony and serenity.” While, the Imam of Tirana recalled that since 1912 the three religions coexist peacefully in Albania, and how there much is done, from the academic point of view, to encourage a fruitful dialogue between religions, thanks also to the constant and assiduous commitment of the respective faculties of theology.

Emmanuele F.M. Emanuele, President of Fondazione Terzo Pilastro – Internazionale and President of the Scientific Committee of Multaqa, who also opened the first Multaqa in 1998, in his closing speech said: “This meeting brings as a unifying force the concept of peace and dialogue between Mediterranean cultures and religions.” He also mentioned that “No ‘gym’ like the Mediterranean one can keep alive the hope in people’s goodwill and the concept of peace.” Indeed, his hopes are so strong that he said he has been dreaming of a federation of the peoples of the Mediterranean, proposing the role of Sicily as ‘the Brussels’ of the Mediterranean States.

Among the illustrious participants there have been: Maurice Aymard, professor of modern and contemporary history of the Mediterranean countries in Paris at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Gennaro Giuseppe Curcio, Secretary General of the Jacques Maritain International Institute of Rome, journalist Haji Khaled Gianluigi Biagioni Gazzoli, currently Secretary General of the Islamic Union in the West, Federico Mayor, President of the Fundación Cultura de Paz and former Director General of UNESCO, and Eduardo Mira, scholar of geography and history currently working for the European Council in Bruges.

Ilona Catani Scarlett

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