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Christmas musings: A multi-faith prayer in Italy

  • Published at 08:22 pm December 24th, 2018
Inter-faith prayer in Italy photo
From Left, Festival Director of Religion Today Film Festival Andrea Morghen, actor Tauquir Ahmed, Archbishop Luigi Bressan and Yoo Young Uee during the multi-faith prayer in Trento, Italy | Sabrina Shannon Santorum

The whole episode took no more than an hour. One representative from each religion - Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism - conducted a prayer, and the entire circle followed. The prayers are carried out each year as a part of the Religion Today Film Festival, which promotes dialogue and harmony between different religions

What is a multi-faith prayer? Like most of us, I had no idea such a thing existed until I was in the middle of one such prayer in a tranquil little town called Trento in Northern Italy. Nothing could have prepared me for the sheer beauty of this experience- people from at least five different religions standing in a big circle in a church yard, chanting each other’s prayers, no matter what faith they subscribe to. 

The whole episode took no more than an hour. One representative from each religion - Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism - conducted a prayer, and the entire circle followed. The prayers are carried out each year as a part of the Religion Today Film Festival, which promotes dialogue and harmony between different religions. 

At the 21st edition of the Religion Today Film Festival this October, where I was present as a member of the jury board, Archbishop of Trento Luigi Bressan conducted the Christian part of the prayers, while monk Yoo Young Uee led the Buddhist segment. 

The part that touched me the most was when Ahmed Muztaba Zamal, festival director of the Dhaka International Film Festival, recited verses from the Quran. Every last person in the circle followed his lead and raised their hands in the “monazat” position. I took a look around the church yard and cried for a good 10 minutes. The Archbishop, the monk, the Israeli Orthodox Jews, even school-going teenagers prayed with us. Regardless of which God each individual prayed to, everyone prayed together for a peaceful co-existence. 

Some experiences change us, shape our thoughts and leave us awestruck. This sunny autumn morning in Trento was one such profound experience that I will carry with me for years to come. 

Archbishop Luigi Bressan and Yoo Young Uee are set to arrive in Dhaka in January, to attend the Dhaka International Film Festival as members of the jury board for the Spiritual Films section. The festival will take place from January 10-18, 2019.

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