Seventy-five Jewish, Christian, and Muslim youth from around the world gathered at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on Sunday for a unique summit, answering Pope Francis’ call to create a culture of encounter for peace. Students ages 15 and 16 from Argentina, Brazil, Burundi, Congo, Kenya, Mexico, and Spain joined their Israeli Jewish and Arab counterparts for 4 days of learning through arts, sports, technology, and living together.
At the opening ceremony, young people expressed their hopes for peace through a variety of artistic presentations. Students from Burundi and Congo performed a song in Swahili; students from Beit Hanina performed “Imagine” by John Lennon; and students from the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance sang of peace in Hebrew.
Three senior religions leaders, representing the three Abrahamic faiths, gave opening benedictions as part of an interreligious prayer for peace: Kadi Iyad Zahalka, The Kadi of Jerusalem and the Head of the Sharia Courts of Israel; His Eminence Mons; Giuseppe Lazzarotto, Apostolic Nuncio to Israel; and Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Dov Rosen, the Rabbi of Yakar Congregation in Jerusalem.
Yakar, founded by the children of the late Yaacov Kopul Rosen, founder of Carmel College in Notting Hill, London, encourages interfaith meetings between Orthodox Jews and non-Jewish persons of faith.
The summit, July 2 to 5, 2017, is co-organized by the Pontifical Scholas Occurrentes and the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University. Within the framework of this gathering, two major events are taking place: “Scholas Chairs International Congress 2017: Between University and School – Peacebuilding through Culture of Encounter” and “Interreligious Citizenship Encounter.”
The closing ceremony on Wednesday, July 5, is expected to include greetings from Pope Francis, together with the planting of an olive tree for peace in his name, as students describe their experiences and present their works of art and their social projects.
Speaking at a meeting with leaders of Scholas and the Hebrew University at his residence on February 7, Pope Francis said: “Religion can bring us together and teach us to create the bonds of friendship. With the intuition of Scholas and the intelligence and history of the Hebrew University, I am sure that this will produce great changes in the world.”