December 4, 2014 – El Samman Speaks at Médiathèque Alliance Baron Edmond de Rothschild

Ariel Danan, in charge of Mediatheque Alliance Baron Edmond de Rothschild, and Aly El Samman

Former advisor to President Anwar Sadat

Médiathèque Alliance Baron Edmond de Rothschild – Paris
December 4th 2014

Within the framework of the series “Jews and Muslims in the Land of Islam”, Ariel Danan, in charge of Médiathèque Alliance Baron Edmond de Rothschild, organized a meeting with Aly El Samman, former advisor to President Sadat and president of the International Union for Intercultural and Interfaith Dialogue and Peace Education (ADIC).

Aly El Samman, who was a journalist as well as media advisor to President Anwar Sadat and a pioneer of interfaith dialogue, was introduced by Ariel Danan, who gave the key points to be discussed during the event. These included the Camp David peace accords, Sadat’s trip to Jerusalem, El Samman’s family history, the personalities he met over the years and interfaith dialogue.

When asked about his analysis of the peace accords between Israel and Egypt, El Samman first acknowledged the Médiathèque Alliance Baron Edmond de Rothschild and Ariel Danan, the leading force behind the organization of the event. He then revealed that humor played a great part in the peace negotiations, recalling that President Sadat told him that during discussions with Begin he did not think that negotiations would be successful, considering Moses himself failed. El Samman also described President Sadat’s unsuccessful attempts to involve the Arab world in those negotiations and paid tribute to President Jimmy Carter’s key role during the stalled negotiations.

According to El Samman, Anwar Sadat’s trip to Jerusalem and the speech he delivered to the Knesset were major turning point in the talks, and the content of that speech should be included in school curriculums. This important cultural and historical lesson would help young people to understand the courage required from heads of states.

To better understand Aly El Samman’s dedication to work for dialogue and peace, Ariel Danan delved into his childhood when he was surrounded by Muslim, Coptic and Jewish friends. El Samman admitted that being the only Muslim child attending a Coptic school had a great impact on him. He then acknowledged the presence in the room of Father Guirgis Lucas, son of his Coptic school’s director.

During his career in Egypt, France and throughout Europe and the United States, Aly El Samman met and became friends with numerous great people such as the Chancellor of Austria, Bruno Kreisky; President Pierre Mendès France; Nahum Goldman, former President of the World Jewish Congress; Baron Edmond de Rothschild; James Wolfensohn, former President of the World Bank; Sir Sigmund Warburg; Karl Kahane; André Ulmann, director of the French daily “La Tribune des nations”; Maxime Rodinson; Jean-Paul Sartre; Simone de Beauvoir; Claude Lanzmann; and Jean Lacouture, who played a key role in El Samman’s career as a journalist.

Finally, Ariel Danan quoted Aly El Samman saying, “One serves no purpose without listening to other” and mentioned the 1994 conference he organized in that same spirit at La Sorbonne with former Grand Rabbi of France René-Samuel Sirat; Cardinal Franz König of Vienna; and Mahmoud Hamdy Zagzoug, dean of the Faculty of Theology of Al-Azhar.

Danan took the opportunity to present to the audience El Samman’s latest book, “Three Windows on Heaven: Acceptance of Others, Dialogue and Peace in the Sacred Texts of the Three Abrahamic Religions”, the French version of which was published by Desclée de Brouwer. The book is also available in English, Arabic and Hebrew, further attesting to Aly El Samman’s commitment to interfaith dialogue.

The audience of distinguished guests and friends included Marie Revcolevschi, president of the Aladdin Project; Sheikh Khaled Bentounes, president of the Association internationale soufie Alawiyya (AISA); Rezk Shehata, president of the association “Laïcité pour tous”; H.E. Ambassador Patrick Leclerc; H.E. Husayn Botsali, Ambassador of Turkey to UNESCO; writer Jean Guitton; Bernard Esambert; Emile Moatti, general delegate of “ La Fraternité d’Abraham” in Jerusalem; pianist Ramzi Yassa; Yves Fedida and André Cohen from “L’Association internationale Nebi Daniel”; and members of ADIC: Renée Duret, general secretary; Alyx Husayn; Jacqueline Rouge; and Fréderic Pascal.

A warm dialogue prevailed at the end of the event and stressed the necessity to better educate young people about tolerance and dialogue in France as well as in the Middle-East.

click to view invitation

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