In one of his first official acts as newly-elected President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani hosted a ceremony in the premises of the European Parliament in Brussels yesterday to mark annual International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which falls on 27 January.
President Tajani used the occasion to speak about the increasing number of anti-Semitic incidents around Europe. Among the invited speakers at the EP event were former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has set up his own Faith Foundation whose mission is to “provide practical support to counter religious conflict and extremism in order to promote open-minded and stable societies.” In his speech, Mr Blair issued a call “to defend our common European values against extremism, radicalism and terrorism.”
The President of the European Jewish Congress Moshe Kantor also spoke at the event, as well as Beate Klarsfeld, famed Nazi-hunter and UNESCO honorary ambassador and special envoy for Education about the Holocaust and the Prevention of Genocide.
Mr Tajani has a long commitment to promoting dialogue between religions, as well as religious tolerance and freedom. Before being elected EP President this month, he served as the Parliament’s Vice President since the 2014 elections with responsibility for ensuring the institution’s dialogue with churches and religions, foreseen in the Lisbon Treaty.
It is to be hoped that his Presidency will contribute to greater efforts by the European Parliament to tackle the serious issue of intolerance towards and discrimination of religious groups and individuals within Europe, and persecution of Christians and other religious minorities worldwide.
The European Parliament’s Holocaust Memorial event concluded with the recitation of the Jewish mourning prayer Kaddish by the Chief Rabbi of Brussels, followed by a minute of silence. At a time when atheist and humanist extremists seek to exclude religion from the public square, it is also to be welcomed that very public prayers can be held in the European Parliament with the active participation of its President and other Members.