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55 countries send delegations to OSCE event, including US delegation led by Gov. Pataki of NY

9 June 2005, Cordoba Spain

By Tony Reed

Christians, Moslems and Jews have come from all over the world to the 2005 Conference on Anti-Semitism and Other Forms of Intolerance, held by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Groups from Christian, Moslem and Jewish groups have been invited to participate in formulating a common response on the part of OSCE countries to growing extremism and intolerance around the world.

One thousand years ago, Cordoba was ruled enlightened rulers under Umayyad Caliphate of Cordoba , most notably its founder Abd Al-Rahman III, who not only tolerated the Christians and Jews under his rule, but incorporated them into his government. Peaceful co-existence lasted until civil war broke out Moslem fundamentalists came into power. Beginning in 1492, the Jews and Moslems were expelled from Spain , during a time when young nations across Europe were attempting to consolidate political and religious power.

On Wednesday the 8th in the historic center of Cordoba, heavy security was evident as King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia opened the conference. While a helicopter circled overhead in normally silent skies, 600 local police, national police and secret service agents controlled access to the area around the Mosque and the Palacio de Congresos. Meanwhile, sightseers walked right past the Conference Center entrance, mostly oblivious to what was going on inside.

One Spanish woman sat licking an ice cream cone on the steps along the side of the mosque, trying to catch a glimpse of the participants in the central patio, including all of the European Union foreign ministers. A policewoman standing nearby said apologetically, "I'm sorry, but you'll have to move." Licking faster, and craning her neck, the easy-going pensioner replied, "I'll just be a second more!"

Christian, Moslem and Jewish participants have come to Cordoba to build a more tolerant world. Israel Singer, Secretary General of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), hopes that one day the "Three Cultures" can get along as well as they did during that golden century so long ago, when Moslems, Christians and Jews were united and respected one another. In an interview printed in El Diario Cordoba (7 June 2005), he says, "The document that comes out of this conference should declare that what was possible 1200 years ago is possible today... Obviously, people were smarter than they are now."

In an effort to recover this golden age of peaceful co-existence and cooperation, the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights has organized the conference and will present two papers: "Combating Hate Crimes in the OSCE Region" and "Overview and Analysis of Approaches to Education on the Holocaust and on Anti-Semitism".

This year, the 60th anniversary of the Holocaust is especially significant, and Cordoba was chosen as a symbol of the benefits of religious tolerance.




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