Malmö, Sweden, is a city with a diverse population, including a significant number of religious minorities. However, this diversity has not always translated into harmonious coexistence. Discrimination and lack of understanding have created tensions between different communities, particularly the Jewish and Muslim populations. But amidst these challenges, two individuals - Imam Barakat and Rabbi Moshe David HaCohen - saw an opportunity to bridge the divide and create a more trusting society. This is the story of how they founded AMANAH - The Muslim-Jewish Partnership of Trust - and their ongoing efforts to promote interfaith dialogue and counter discrimination.
Malmö has a rich history of Jewish and Muslim communities. The Jewish population dates back to the 18th century, while the Muslim community began to grow in the 1960s and 1970s. However, these communities have faced numerous challenges, including discrimination, hate crimes, and lack of understanding. The situation reached a boiling point in 2009 when a local synagogue was attacked by arsonists. This incident served as a wake-up call for both communities to come together and address the underlying issues.
Enter Imam Barakat and Rabbi Moshe David HaCohen. Both men had been working towards interfaith dialogue for years, but their paths had never crossed until 2016. When they finally met, they immediately recognized the potential for collaboration and decided to establish AMANAH.
The Genesis of AMANAH
The initial meeting between Imam Barakat and Rabbi HaCohen was marked by a shared vision for a harmonious society where people of different faiths could live together in peace. They recognized that this would require building trust between communities, which could only be achieved through dialogue and understanding.
Establishing AMANAH was not without its challenges. Both men faced skepticism from within their own communities, with some questioning the need for such an organization. They also had to navigate the complex landscape of funding and political support. But their determination and shared vision kept them going, and in 2017, AMANAH was officially launched.
Objectives and Operations of AMANAH
AMANAH's primary goal is to foster trust between Muslim and Jewish communities in Malmö. To achieve this, they have developed a range of programs and initiatives that promote dialogue and understanding. These include community dialogues, educational workshops, and interfaith celebrations.
One of their most successful initiatives has been the "Walking Together" program, which brings together groups of Jewish and Muslim women to explore each other's cultures and traditions. This program has helped to break down stereotypes and build bridges between communities.
AMANAH's impact has not gone unnoticed. In 2019, they were awarded the prestigious Raoul Wallenberg Prize for their work in promoting interfaith dialogue and combating discrimination.
Challenges and Triumphs
Running an organization like AMANAH is not without its challenges. Funding remains a constant issue, with the organization relying on donations and grants to sustain its operations. There is also skepticism from some members of both communities who are wary of engaging with the other side.
However, despite these challenges, AMANAH has had numerous triumphs. They have organized successful community events, such as the annual "Iftar in the Synagogue" dinner during Ramadan, which brings together Jews and Muslims for a meal and conversation. They have also facilitated meaningful dialogue between community members, which has led to greater understanding and trust.
Imam Barakat and Rabbi HaCohen are both optimistic about the future of AMANAH. They see the organization as a model for other cities facing similar challenges. Their ultimate goal is to create a society where people of all faiths can live together in harmony.
The story of AMANAH is a testament to the power of interfaith dialogue and collaboration. In a world where division and hate seem to be on the rise, initiatives like AMANAH offer hope for a better future. As Imam Barakat puts it: "We are all one family, and we need to work together to create a better world for our children."