Jewish cemetary AP
Gravestones are sprayed with Nazi symbols in a Jewish cemetery in Germany. Photo by AP
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80 leading Jewish and Muslim leaders from across Ukraine and Russia met in Kiev
on Thursday May 12, pledging to work together to fight a rising cascade of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in the two countries.

In the first-ever “Muslims and Jews United Against Hatred and Extremism" conference held in the Ukrainian capital, community leaders from both countries heard chilling accounts of discrimination and abuse.

Conference participants spoke of the beating and harassment of Muslims and Jews in the two former Soviet republics, desecration of Muslim and Jewish cemeteries and bombings as well as other attacks on communal institutions of the two faiths.

The leaders pledged to work together to combat forces of extremism and hate and to put pressure on their local authorities to take a more assertive stand in fighting perpetrators of Islamophobic and anti-Semitic attacks.

Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU) and vice president of the World Jewish Congress, hailed the historic event in Kiev, commenting; “The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, together with our partners, is gratified to be standing in support of joint actions by Muslims and Jews in the former Soviet Union and across Europe.

He added that the meeting's "purpose is to make clear that Jews and Muslims will be there for each other if either is being unfairly attacked, and will stand united in support ofprinciples of democracy and pluralism that will ensure a decent future for all Ukrainians and Russians.”

The Kiev conference was sponsored by the Ukrainian Jewish Committee and the Institute of Human Rights and the Prevention of Extremism and Xenophobia under the leadership of the noted Member of Parliament and business leader Oleksandr Feldman, in cooperation with FFEU.

80 Muslim and Jewish leaders from across Ukraine and Russia participated in the historic conference.

The Kiev conference was one of nine Muslim-Jewish events being held in countries in Europe during the month of May in commemoration of Europe Day.

Events opposing racism, extremism and prejudice against Muslims and Jews are being held in Britain, France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Netherlands, Belgium, in addition to the Ukraine throughout May, and are sponsored by FFEU, the World Jewish Congress, European Jewish Congress, World Council of Muslims for Interfaith Relations and the Muslim-Jewish Conference.

The events will culminate in Brussels on May 30, when top Jewish and Muslim leaders are to present a joint declaration to European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, committing to "resolve to work together to counter efforts to demonize or marginalize either of our communities. Bigotry against any Jew or any Muslim is an attack on all Muslims and all Jews. We are united in our belief in the dignity of all peoples.”