‘We are brothers’: Latin American Jewish, Muslim groups gather for landmark meeting

Major umbrella groups from both faiths sit down for 2 days and publish ‘decalogue’ of agreements to cooperate on interfaith activities, culture, sports and fighting hate speech

Members of the Latin American Jewish Congress and the Muslim World League meet at a hotel in Buenos Aires, July 2023. (Courtesy of the World Jewish Congress via JTA)
Members of the Latin American Jewish Congress and the Muslim World League meet at a hotel in Buenos Aires, July 2023. (Courtesy of the World Jewish Congress via JTA)

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — In what both organizations are touting as a milestone moment for South American religious groups, leaders from the World Jewish Congress’ Latin American chapter have met with leaders from the Muslim World League.

Over 40 members of the groups from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Panama, Peru and Venezuela, along with three representatives of the Muslim World League based in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, met in Buenos Aires for two days last week. They discussed ways to collaborate and published a “decalogue” of agreements, which includes future interfaith programming in South American schools and invitations to members of each group to participate in holiday services of the other faith.

Among the Islamic representatives was the Imam Emerson Bukele, president of the Islamic-Hispanic American community of El Salvador and brother of the country’s president, Nayib Bukele.

“It was a meeting of the two religions, but also with a lot of different voices, with youth and adults, men and women, different countries, experiences — so it’s very important that we established a decalogue of best practices,” Melody Amal Khalik Kabalan, president of the Islam Institute for Peace based in Buenos Aires, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “Everyone expressed what worked better in their communities and also expressed the challenges, and we all wrote this decalogue to share and expand the best experiences.”

Other points of the document include pledges to play sports together; to organize activities to address common problems and tensions (including the Abrahamic Hummus Championship); to create a series of cultural days, which could feature museum tours and other programming; and to jointly fight hate speech.

“In other latitudes, an initiative like this would be considered a miracle,” said Claudio Epelman, executive director of the Latin American Jewish Congress, an arm of the World Jewish Congress. “From Latin America, we are spreading hope to those places where an encounter between Jews and Muslims is an unthinkable event.”

The Muslim World League, an NGO, is funded by Saudi Arabia.

“The stories we share confirm today that we are brothers, and that each community is supporting the other,” said Maram Alkharboosh, director of alliances for the Muslim World League. “We have to live in peace. The differences are a feature and not a bad thing.”

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