NAZARETH – Nazareth increasingly finds its biblical and historical vocation as the city of unity. This vocation comes from the mystery of the Incarnation, the mystery of the unity and brotherhood par excellence. More and more, groups of pilgrims, mostly mixed, are asking to have interreligious meetings in Nazareth.
On March 10, 2014, a group from Toronto, called ‘The Path of Abraham’, consisting of thirty-two Jewish, Christian and Muslim Canadians, had an interreligious meeting in Nazareth around the topic “How to build a successful interreligious coexistence?” The dialogue was held at the White Mosque in Nazareth, the oldest in Nazareth and probably in all Galilee, the Administrator of the Mosque, Sheikh Atef Fahoum, and three officials from the Canadian group: Rabbi Bayron F. Kohl, Fr. Damien MacPherson, and Imam Abdul Hai Patel.
After introductions by the bishop and the sheikh, a beautiful and frank dialogue developed among all participants, where the question that most often arose was: “Does Nazareth teach something about how to live together in ethnic, cultural and religious diversity?” The bishop gave a biblical and theological response: “Yes, in Nazareth, God revealed Himself as the Father of all and therefore we are all brothers. The Word of God, Jesus of Nazareth, did not refuse nor despise the ‘diversity’ of man, but he took on humanity and, becoming man, elevated humanity and created a profound unity.”
The Sheikh gave an historical and social response and, in some aspects, joked: “Our Mosque is called ‘white’ because of the mission of social harmony, good relations and the ‘all pure Virgin Mary of Nazareth’ of whom the Qur’an speaks extensively. It is true that sometimes there is unrest in our relationships, but they have never been the expression of the Muslim community, but rather the result of small opportunistic politicized groups. The Mosque and Church of the Annunciation have traditionally been the center of the city of Nazareth and the symbol of our secular and peaceful coexistence, to such an extent that the inhabitants of Nazareth call me “the Imam of the Annunciation” and my brother, “the Bishop of the White Mosque”!
We remember that this vocation of unity was manifested eminently on May 14, 2009 when Pope Benedict XVI presided over the famous Nazareth interreligious meeting of all religious leaders of Israel. It was a local initiative, but the mission of unity was felt and experienced even at the international level and, as we noted, groups of pilgrims fit more into their programs an interreligious meeting in Nazareth.
One also remembers, for example, the chapel of the International Mary of Nazareth Center, the first church to be blessed in Galilee after the visit of Pope Benedict is called the “chapel of unity”.
Text our correspondent Nazareth. Photos by A. K.