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Jewish-Muslim leaders hold Brussels congress

Published on 07/01/2005

7 January 2005

BRUSSELS – Leaders of the Jewish and Islamic faiths pledged to work for world peace at their first-ever world congress held in Brussels this week.

Some 150 rabbis and imams represented different strands of Judaism and Islam, from
all over the world, at the conference at the Palais d’Egmont in Brussels on Thursday.

The leaders signed a joint declaration in which they pledged to “work to put an end to
the spilling of blood and the attacks against innocent human beings which breach the
right to life and the dignity given to every human by the All Powerful.”

They called on all Jewish and Muslim leaders to stress the importance of respecting
other religions. They also appealed to world politicians to “work for fair and lasting
solutions for peace throughout the planet”.

Although questions like the situation in the Middle East were not directly discussed,
the conference participants established a joint committee to work towards the goals
outlined at the congress.

The group is to meet again at the end of the year either in Seville, Spain, or in
Jordan or Jerusalem.

The conference, which was supported by Belgium’s King Albert II and the Moroccan King
Mohammed VI, was a coup for Belgian diplomacy since it was the first time that so many
Jewish and Muslim leaders from such high positions within their faiths have sat at the
same table.

However, Deputy Prime Minister Laurette Onkelinx, whose responsibilities include religion, took the shine off Belgium’s coup when she failed to attend.

The office of Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt had announced she was to close the congress, but Onkelinx was reportedly out of the country, with her office denying any knowledge of the appointment.

The government did not send a substitute — an embarrassment to Verhofstadt who
wanted to be seen as having played a key part in the peace initiative.

[Copyright Expatica 2005]

Subject: Belgian news