The largest-ever gathering of Muslim and Jewish students and young professionals will kick off in Kiev next week.
Seventy young Muslim and Jewish leaders from 25 countries will come together to demonstrate that a new generation can overcome decades of mutual fear and demonization to build a brighter future for both communities.
The second annual 'Muslim-Jewish Conference', which follows a smaller meeting last summer in Vienna, will be held in Kiev, Ukraine from July 3 to 8. This will be the first time the former Soviet Union has ever hosted such a meeting.
The event will take place with the support of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU) and the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, with the president and chairman of FFEU, Rabbi Marc Schneier and Russell Simmons, serving as patrons for the event.
Participants in the conference, many of whom met each other on-line and have sustained their connection via Facebook and other social media, come from countries as diverse as Pakistan, India, Lebanon, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Nigeria, Austria, Germany, Poland, France, Canada and the United States.
The Kiev conference follows a series of Europe Day events that took place across Europe during May, 2011 under the aegis of FFEU and the World Jewish Congress, in which prominent Muslims and Jews in nine European countries held joint events at which they vowed to stand together against the rise of Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and xenophobia.
According to Rabbi Schneier; "The Kiev conference, coming on the heels of our successful efforts to build a Muslim-Jewish alliance in Europe, offers the opportunity to bring together some of the most outstanding Muslim and Jewish leaders in their 20's and 30's for five days of sustained dialogue.”
These young adults, future leaders and opinion shapers seek to accomplish what many of their elders “erroneously assume” to be an impossible dream; stepping beyond non-communication and estrangement and connecting with one another, said Rabbi Schneier.
“This conference is heartening evidence of the remarkable progress FFEU is making, together with our partner, the Muslim-Jewish Conference, in building a global movement of young Muslims and Jews committed to communication, reconciliation and cooperation,” said Rabbi Schneier.
Ilja Sichrovsky, a 29-year-old native of Vienna who serves as founder and secretary general of the Muslim-Jewish Conference, remarked, "The young Muslims and Jews, who are traveling to Kiev from around the world to connect with each other, are committed to surmounting the barricades between our respective communities and building ties of friendship and trust. Together, we are living proof that, despite the conventional wisdom, it is not impossible to overcome borders and psychological barriers to connect with each other. We have only to reach out and begin working together for a better future."
Participants in the conference will hold sessions on such issues as confronting Islamophobia and anti-Semitism; principles for productive Muslim-Jewish dialogue; being loyal citizens of their respective countries while maintaining a proud religious identity; using social media in interfaith dialogue; and sharing collective memories and comparative identities.
Participants in the conference will conclude by issuing a united call to action, urging young Muslims and Jews around the world to reject the siren calls of extremism and hatred, and come together to build ties of friendship and trust.
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