Meeting the ʹotherʹ

"For me, this kind of event is an act of defiance. We defy the popular misconception that the future lies in barricading ourselves in," explained Grzybowski. Neither walls nor a rejection of otherness – the "root of our humanity" – provide that sorely needed security; the only effective security is to be found in meeting ʹthe otherʹ.

"Humanityʹs true enemy is ignorance and indifference. The peace of tomorrow is to be found in meeting and sharing dialogue with people of different beliefs and negotiating with them with a view to the common good." This is clearly noticeable in the Nuit Sacree manifesto of 28 May 2016, which has since been signed by various representatives of religious communities.

The Nuit Sacree lives and breathes this spirit of peace, togetherness, freedom and responsibility, and this is where its power lies. Those in attendance experience a moment of openness and spirituality, conveyed through the language of music and song. This reaches people deeply and directly. It was a case of understanding that "no-one has a monopoly on transcendence", said Grzybowski.

On the second day of the event, the imam and leader of Maison Soufi, Abdelhafid Benchouk, appealed urgently to the media and their responsibility: "Today, there is still a deficit when it comes to the awareness of such events among the general public. Unfortunately, we donʹt hear enough about these kinds of campaigns on TV or on the radio, even though there are many of them taking place every day. There are so many different associations doing great work to facilitate participation in interfaith dialogue, but no-one talks about them."

“We all have a truth”

Having stayed up all night for the occasion of the Jewish festival Shavuot, which commemorates Moses receiving the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, the rabbi and founder of the Franco-American synagogue Kehilat Gesher, Tom Cohen, was keen to emphasise the following:

"We all, each of us, have a truth. Problems arise in society when we take our truth to be the whole truth. When we accept that everyone has their own truth, we have to meet with them in order to understand these truths and to come closer to that truth." Peace is not the absence of war and violence, it is more like abundance. "May we all have this abundance in our lives."

Grzybowski, a Catholic, called for a minuteʹs silence to dwell on the countless known and unknown victims of violence and to pray for peace, "for all the victims of Islamophobia, the victims of every form of hate, all the victims of human folly, religious, political or other forms of violence; that we carry them in our hearts – each in his own way. May these acts of violence disappear forever."

The grand finale was performed by the ensemble Dervish Spirit, singing sacred Sufi anthems in Arabic, Turkish and Farsi – to the accompaniment of whirling dervishes.

Being able to take part in the treasured aspects of ʹotherʹ religions, cultures and world views and give of your own in return is a formula that is proving highly effective. The many pilgrims who attended La Nuit Sacree are unlikely to forget these enchanting images of a vision of peace, filled with colour, movement and beauty.

Zahra Nedjabat

© 2019

Translated from the German by Ayca Turkoglu

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