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CultureSpaces of Respect, Bridge-Builder Promotes Religious Minorities Dialogue at European Parliament

Spaces of Respect, Bridge-Builder Promotes Religious Minorities Dialogue at European Parliament

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Juan Sanchez Gil
Juan Sanchez Gil
Juan Sanchez Gil - at The European Times News - Mostly in the back lines. Reporting on corporate, social and governmental ethics issues in Europe and internationally, with emphasis on fundamental rights. Also giving voice to those not being listened to by the general media.

Brussels, Belgium – “Hence the need today for this kind of debate, which enables a religious minority to find a clean, respectful space in which to express their religion responsibly and transparently, within a democratic framework,” affirmed Lahcen Hammouch in an address last week to the European Parliament. The journalist and living together in peace activist gave remarks on November 30th as part of a conference on safeguarding the rights of spiritual minorities.

Organized by French MEP Maxette Pirbakas, the working meeting convened diverse religious groups to discuss experiences in Europe. In his speech, Hammouch, CEO of the Brussels-based outlet Bruxelles Media, drew on an upbringing that nurtured interfaith bonds. Growing up in Morocco, “we’ve lived together with the Jewish community since we were children,” he recalled. Yet upon immigrating to Belgium at 18, Hammouch encountered unfamiliar racism and divisions.

In the wake of “terrorist attacks in Europe by radical Islamist extremists”, dialogue has become more urgent, Hammouch argued. “Hence the need today for everyone – Black, White, Blue, Yellow, Green – to talk to each other,” he emphasized, even where full agreement proves impossible. His work centres on facilitating such conversations through media platforms, seminars and “apéros of diversity” involving diverse philosophies and religious organizations.

While acknowledging that the Muslim community faces prejudice, Hammouch distinguished the religion’s spiritual core from the political ideology of Islamism. His forthcoming book explores this complex landscape. “There is of course an Islam of peace, a traditional Islam, an Islam of values,” he wrote. “And then there is an Islamism which carries a political project.”

By providing a forum for pluralistic exchange, Hammouch suggested, events like the conference organized by French MEP Pirbakas, enable transparent understanding between people of different backgrounds. Thanking the MEP for her efforts, he reiterated the need for a “respectful space” where religious minorities can voice their beliefs freely as integral members of European democracies.

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