Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi held talks with members of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) Steering Committee and Italian umbrella Jewish organisation UCEI in Rome Monday as part of his ongoing commitment to protecting freedom of religion. The meeting, scheduled just a week before Italians go to the polls to determine the makeup of the next Chamber of Deputies and the Senate Sunday and Monday, also saw community representatives discuss highly topical Middle Eastern concerns as Europe’s leaders look to 2013 to be the “year of peace” in the Middle East.
WJC President Ronald Lauder thanked Terzi on behalf of the Italian government for his determination to fight religious intolerance and all forms of anti-Semitism, which also saw the minister host an international seminar on promoting religious freedom and peaceful coexistence at the Italian foreign ministry last week. In his opening address to assembled academics think-tank representatives and media, Terzi insisted that “our common engagement for the freedom of religion testifies our belonging to a community of nations committed to open debate, human rights and, ultimately, respect for diversity”.
Monday’s meeting also featured an award presentation, where European Jewish Congress (EJC) President Moshe Kantor was honoured with the Knight of the Great Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic, presented by Terzi on behalf of the absent President Giorgio Napolitano, “in recognition of his efforts to promote human rights and inter-faith dialogue, and to combat xenophobia and anti-Semitism across Europe”.
Also present at the ceremony were dignitaries including the Deputy Chairperson of the Foreign and Community Affairs Committee of the Chamber of Deputies, Fiamma Nirenstein, and the Hon. Alessandro Ruben.
Napolitano himself was honoured last Friday was his own efforts to combat anti-Semitism by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on a state visit to Washington. Gifting the outgoing statesman with its Distinguished Statesman Award, ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman saluted his “unflinching, uncompromising, unequivocal stand against the evil of anti-Semitism” as well as his “readiness to promptly, vigorously and clearly add your voice as Italy’s president in denouncing anti-Semitic and racist incidents”.