In Monreale, Sicily, Ambassador Ahmed and the Journey into Europe team visited the famous Monreale Cathedral, one of the great cathedrals of Europe. The cathedral, built by the Norman-Sicilian King William II in the 12th century, is notable for the extensive Islamic influence in its art and architecture. This union of different influences reflects the Norman-Sicilian vision of a multicultural and multi-religious society with Catholic and Orthodox Christians, Muslims, and Jews living together. This spirit can still be seen today, with the Italians saving 1300 immigrants from the sea just before the Monreale Cathedral visit and Monreale artisans expressing how unhappy they were with the violence in the Middle East which they said was destroying the rich artistic legacy of that region.
In the cathedral, the team was fortunate to meet Sister Francisca from Argentina and Sister Maria Jose from Chile, both of the Order of Our Lady of Loreto, who shared their deep knowledge of the cathedral, its history, and the different artistic and cultural traditions reflected in it. In their gentleness, kindness, and commitment to interfaith relations, they reflected the best of Christianity. Two of the team members, Dr. Amineh Hoti and Zeenat Ahmed, were especially delighted to meet the sisters as they were educated by Catholic nuns at the Convent of Jesus and Mary in Pakistan, famous for producing prominent figures such as former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. As 2014 ends, let us learn of love and compassion from these two South American sisters.