In times of turmoil in the Middle East, Jews and Christians in Argentina held a ceremony showing the world that it´s possible to live in peace. An Argentine cardinal, who almost elected pope, celebrated Hanukkah in a Jewish temple in Buenos Aires, in the presence of leaders from other religions.
A family photo rarely seen. Rabbis, Catholic priests and Afro-Brazilian religious leaders standing side by side in a Jewish Temple, celebrating Hanukkah. Together they prayed for religious freedom and tolerance in the world. Some, chanting in Hebrew. Others, in silence. All asking for peace in their own words.
Leonardo Allegue, Umbanda priest:
"Argentina is a cultural melting pot. Our religion, Umbanda, comes from Africa. But Africans and Jews have a lot in common. Our people were persecuted throughout history."
The guest of honor, of this inter religious ceremony, was none other than Cardinal Jose Maria Bergoglio. The archbishop of Buenos Aires was the second most voted candidate to succeed Pope John Paul II in 2005.
José Maria Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires:
"And God said: Let there be light."
He spoke about the holy light, shining on all mankind alike, and lit a candle.
December is especially festive month in Buenos Aires, as Argentina’s Christians and Jews celebrate both Christmas and Hanukah. It is common to see Christmas trees and giant menorahs in public squares and caravans of smaller menorahs on the capital’s main avenues. No effort is spared when it comes to lightening up the skies.
Dorit Shavit, Israeli Ambassador in Argentina:
"Let us light the candles for peace, pluralism and peace among all people, no matter their religions, their beliefs and their ideologies."
It’s still too early for Santa Klaus to wander around the streets of Buenos Aires, where temperatures at this time of the year can reach 35 degrees centigrade.
But in this square, Barney, the friendly dinosaur, hopped off a city tour bus for children and joined the festivities.
Rabbi Shlomo Levy:
"This is very special like any of the five thousand places where we celebrate Hanukkah in public even in Russia or places like Nepal you could think that they would be ashamed to show they are Jewish. But here again we are proud and all the people very happy."
Nine out of every ten argentines are Catholic, but the country known to be a melting pot of different cultures and religions, had a Moslem president, Carlos Menem, in the nineties. And it´s also the home of the largest Jewish community in Latin America.
Monica Yanakiew, JN1, Buenos Aires