Keeping Convivencia Alive in Sicily

In Palermo, Sicily, Ambassador Ahmed and the Journey into Europe team visited Mayor Leoluca Orlando at his office in Villa Niscemi, a palace originally constructed in the 17th century by an aristocratic Italian family.

Mayor Orlando was first elected Mayor of Palermo in 1985 when he began his successful campaign to break the hold of the Sicilian Mafia over the city, a period known as the Palermo Spring. He has previously served as a member of the Sicilian Regional Parliament, Italian Parliament, and the European Parliament. He is currently the president of the association representing the 394 mayors of Sicily. A trained lawyer, Mayor Orlando has written a dozen books and legal treatises. His many awards and distinctions include the European Parliament’s European Civic Prize, awarded in 2000 for “his struggle against organized crime and his engagement in favor of the civic renewal of his city.”

During the meeting, the entire team was impressed by Mayor Orlando’s spirit of interfaith harmony and “la convivencia” between different communities which he said was fundamental to Sicilian identity. He spoke with passion for the rights of all humanity, including the many immigrants coming to the shores of Sicily, and gave advice for how to improve relations between Muslims and non-Muslims today.

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