The Magnificat and Muhammad: the faces of brotherhood for the day of Human Fraternity

The Magnificat and Muhammad: the faces of brotherhood for the day of Human Fraternity

On Saturday 10th June, for the “#Notalone, Meeting on Human Fraternity,” the Magnificat, the school of music of the Custody of the Holy Land, has been asked to take part in the day dedicated to fraternity with music and talent but above all the story of Muhammad Al-Sheikh.

#Notalone, organized by the Vatican’s Fratelli Tutti Foundation and broadcast all over the world on Rai 1 and on the Vatican media, is an event inspired by Pope Francis’s “Fratelli tutti” Encyclical, signed in Assisi on 3rd October 2020. From the afternoon, there were meetings with Nobel Laureates, associations and young people from all over the world sharing testimonies in St Peter’s Square, all committed to promoting fraternity and social friendship between people and peoples as an antidote to the many forms of violence and wars underway in the world.

In the evening, eight other squares in the world were linked for the event, including Jerusalem.  The Latin Patriarch, His Beatitude Mons. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, summoned to represent the Holy City, wanted the Magnificat - the school of music founded by the Custody in 1995 - to show the face of fraternity in the Holy Land – with one of its pupils, Muhammad. The talented young pianist performed works by Scarlatti, Saint-Saëns, F. Chopin and Liszt in the beautiful setting of the Maison D’Abraham (the Maison d’accueil, directed by Bernard Thibaud, which hosted the event) in Jerusalem.

The story of Muhammad Al-Sheikh, now brought to the attention of the whole world, is an emblem of the soul of the school: he is a Muslim boy from Ramallah and he studied the piano at the Magnificat, from which he graduated last year. His teacher, who accompanied him throughout his course of study, is Jewish: Emma Spitkovsky, of Ukrainian descent, was rejected because of her faith by the conservatoire of her country and, after her studies in Russia, moved to Jerusalem, where she encountered the Magnificat. This is a story of encounter, trust and dialogue.

“Straight away, I supported, shared and believed in the spirit of this school,” Emma Spitkovsky says with great emotion, “which puts dialogue and education on the peaceful coexistence between religions at the centre, and where we all work together, Jews, Christians and Muslims, united by a passion for music. I met Muhammad when he was ten years old: I immediately recognized his extraordinary talent. I am proud to have been his teacher. In spite of our different faiths and our different cultures, what we can do together is not only possible, but above all, it is beautiful.”

“What we have known this evening is one of the many examples of peaceful coexistence here in the Holy Land,” emphasizes the Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa, “which teaches us how, despite everything, there are places, associations and situations, where Christians, Jews and Muslims feel they belong to each other: it is possible to be “all brothers”, because we are all children of the same Father.”

The Director of the Magnificat, fr. Alberto Joan Pari, cannot hide his satisfaction: “It was a great honour for us to be chosen to represent the faces of fraternity. There are many particular and unique stories in our school of music, which was founded with exactly the intention of going beyond differences and creating something solid and profound together. We are also delighted because the words “Fratelli tutti” come from our father St Francis, whose name the Pope chose and is the source of inspiration for the Encyclical.”

The meeting, which ended with the Magnificat Quartet composed of Anjelie Villaluz, Alberto Joan Pari, Giuliana Mettini and Tareq Wahabe, was broadcast live on television and on Vatican Media and can be seen again on our Facebook channel.

Silvia Giuliano