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Diaries Of A Young Pen: I Do Not Tolerate, I Care

April 6, 2008

When I was packing my bags to go to the Catalonia, Spain to the Euro- Med training on Gender and Religion, I was wondering if it’s not just some other futile training full of theory and which never come up with any practical projects or achievements. Well I was wrong!

During the training course Jews, Christians, Muslims, and non-believers had to live, travel, work and party together for 10 days in the Comarruga Youth Hostel. We all came with our education, our religious backgrounds, our stereotypes, and methods of work. Yet, the 23 participants from all over the Meditareenian Sea were all ready to learn and to tolerate people from other confessional roots.

The fourth day we went in a field trip to Tarragona to visit the various religious communities there. Guess what, there was no Jewish community in this old Roman marvellous city because of the 15th century hatred, whereas the strong Muslim community is still struggling to build a mosque for its believers. Spain is a secular country according to its constitution. Yet, the state still supports the Church by giving 8% of the taxes’ incomes to the Catholic Christian Church. In addition, Spain still seems much occupied by its bloody past full of Judaic & Islamic phobia of the early Catholic Kings of Spain.

Michael, Paulo and I weren’t affected by this Spanish mood. A Jew, a Christian and a Muslim succeeded in becoming friends very easily during this training course. Micha is a Russian Jew who left his family in Moscow at the age of 16 to go to Israel living in a Kibbutz and serving 3 years in the Israeli Army. He is now a traditional and modern Judaic jewellery designer in Jerusalem waiting for the Devine call to become a committed Religious Jew. Paulo was born in Roma in Italy, with a balcony on the Vatican and the sounds of thousands of bells ringing all over the place. Paulo even shacked-hands with the formal Pope John Paul II when he was a child, but since he is a social sciences graduates Erasmus student, he just decided to question his given dogma and travel around the world looking for Secular answers instead of Religious ones. As regards me, I was born in a conservative Moroccan Muslim family. I discovered other religions very early, and have chosen to remain a very spiritual Muslim out of conviction. My studies of journalism, diplomacy and communication thought me how to be very politically correct with people different than me without really caring about them.

In this training we were just three human beings willing to learn and go forward. Micha was sharing with us his stories in the army when he caught a 9 years old Palestinian kamikaze. Paulo was telling us that he sees the bible as a literature book and questions the nature of the Christ. When, I was telling them how important for me to stay Virgin until marriage because of my belonging to the Prophet Mohammed’s genealogical tree. We were so different in education, faith and hopes, yet, we all enjoyed heavy metal songs, the smell of tobacco or extra olive oil on our meals.

In one of the simulations of the course, each of us has to play a role other than his real life’s role. I had to be the representative of a very conservative party. I’ve had to stand against the building of a Muslim mosque in Spain. After the simulation was over; I felt very bad because for few hours I had to be the persecutor of my own community especially that many Moroccan immigrants in Europe suffer from the same right wing discourse everyday. I discovered how hatred is easy and how tolerance and acceptance is hard to reach as far as religious issues are concerned.

By Tomorrow I’ll be back in my country, where I am surrounded of Muslims everywhere and where the Media and the different ideological discourses are the only resource to discover people from other religions. Nevertheless, this time I’ll be taking with me in my bags the souvenir of three friends from different backgrounds who learned to tolerate each other, to accept each other as we are, to coexist for 10 days in peace, and above all to care about one another. This caring is the main achievement one can get as a human being.

* This article is a MEYI property (http://www.shababinclusion.org)

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