David Rosen, an Israeli Rabbi and a prominent figure in interfaith dialogue, speaks from Jerusalem about the Pope's trip to Baghdad. “It is great that the journey that began in Abu Dhabi continues. The fact that Judaism was mentioned in the speeches at the presidential palace is important. But the three religions must come together.”
Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – The Pope is in Iraq to renew interest in the message about fraternity in the Middle East starting with the figure of Patriarch Abraham. How does the Jewish world view this event from Jerusalem?
AsiaNews spoke to Rabbi David Rosen, an auditor at the 2010 Synod of Bishops of the Middle East, someone who has been personally involved for years in dialogue with Muslims in the Gulf countries.
“The visit by Pope Francis is linked to the Declaration on Human Fraternity signed in Abu Dhabi two years ago,” Rabbi Rosen said. “I am happy about this gesture and I hope it will bear fruit.”
“From my perspective, however, I also hope that this path will further expand, because at present, it is still an initiative only between Christians and Muslims. I am happy that it now involves the whole Islamic world.
“Still, it would also be important for the recognition of fraternity include an official Jewish representative. This is not only because of the deep bond that exists with Christianity, but also because of what it would mean for Islam. Until we don’t get one, a declaration on fraternity will lay open to the risk of being misinterpreted.”
Iraq is important in the history of the Jewish people. Since biblical times and the exile to Babylon, an important Jewish community lived in the country until the exodus caused by Arab-Israeli wars
In yesterday's speeches at the Presidential Palace in Baghdad, both Pope Francis and Iraqi President Barham Salih mentioned Judaism.
“It's a good sign,” Rosen said, “and I'm very grateful for that. I hope however that there will be another opportunity to have a Jewish representative on the same stage with Ayatollah al Sistani or Imam al Tayeb.
“I am conscious that today this cannot happen yet. Pope Francis’s trip is something very sensitive; such a presence would be perceived as provocative. But I also know that Pope Francis will not allow fraternity to be understood as an exclusive value towards the Muslim world.”
For Rabbi Rosen, it is obvious that the pontiff's visit to Iraq has the political implications, “but I doubt that those who have shown little interest in recent years in the presence of Christians in Iraq and the Middle East, or even oppose it, will be persuaded by the Pope's words.”
Can the hand extended to the Shia world change anything in political relations with Iran in the Middle East?
“Divisions are not between religions or even between confessions,” Rosen explained. “They are within the same communities. It is the divisions between those who have opened their minds and hearts to others and those who remain turned inward onto themselves.
“In the Shia world, al Sistani is someone open; others are not. That is why it is important for the Pope to go to Iraq today to shake his hand.”