Enhancing understanding and respect between Muslims and Christians is the goal of an innovative interfaith art exhibition and supporting events being held Jan. 28 - Feb. 3 at St. John the Baptist Anglican/Episcopal Church in the suburban Maadi district of Cairo, Egypt.
The CARAVAN Festival of the Arts exhibition, which brings together more than 40 Middle Eastern and Western visual artists, follows the success of a similar event held in January 2009.
This year's artistic initiative, with the theme "Harmony: East and West," will also include a series of literature, film and music events, among which is a Feb. 1 presentation by Egyptian actor Omar Sharif. Other events will include a literary presentation by best-selling Anglo-Afghan writer Tahir Shah and a musical concert performed by renowned Iraqi oud (lute) master Naseer Shamma.
"Through this exhibition the goal is to highlight how the arts can serve as one of the most effective mediums of encouraging friendship, deepening respect and facilitating sharing between the Middle East and the West," a press release from St. John's Church said.
The festival was launched Jan. 28 by Bishop Richard Chartres of London and the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Sheikh Ali Gouma, followed by a reception with all the artists present.
Each artist is submitting one piece of artwork that reflects the theme, and for each sale 10% will go to Egyptian charities.
Also on display is an interfaith photographic exhibition, titled "Allahu Akbar / How Great Thou Art," using the photography of President Bishop Mouneer Anis of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East.
The Rev. Paul-Gordon Chandler, an appointed U.S. Episcopal missionary who has served as rector of St. John's since 2003, is patron of the festival, and Roland Prime, a participating British artist, serves as its curator.
"Our desire through this second exhibition is that we will see how much we all have in common and how we can enhance and deepen each other's lives," said Prime.
For Chandler, art is a universal language "that has the ability to dissolve the petty differences that divide us."
Quoting the words of 14th century Persian poet and mystic Hafiz, Chandler said: "Art is the conversation … Art offers an opening for the heart. True art makes the divine silence in the soul break into applause. Art is, at least, the knowledge of where we are standing … In this Wonderland … We are partners straddling the universe."
Founded in 1931, St. John's Church "serves as a unique catalyst for Christian/Muslim relations due to the local respect it has developed over the last 80 years," the press release said.
Further details about the festival are available here.
Participating visual artists include:
Egypt & Middle East
Dr. Reda Adbel Rahman
Dr. Omar El Fayoumi
Dr. Farid Fadel
Soha Abou Hussein
Hisham El Zeiny
Saleh Abd el-Sabour
Salah El Meligy
Rania El Hakim
Britt Boutros Ghali
anne du boistesselin
Marielle van der Woude