CARAVAN 2014 opens in Cairo, Egypt & prepares for Washington D.C. & New York City “AMEN-A Prayer for the World”
The 2014 CARAVAN Exhibition of Visual Art opened on June 17 in Cairo, Egypt at the El Bab Gallery of the Museum of Modern Art (Cairo Opera House grounds). Sponsored by SODIC, the exhibition was officially opened by the former Grand Mufti of Egypt, Sheikh Dr. Ali Gomaa, the President Bishop of the Episcopal Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, The Most Rev Dr Mouneer H Anis, and the Head of Fine Arts for Egypt’s Ministry of Culture, Dr. Salah El Meligy. The Cairo opening night was reported to be the largest visual art event in the history of the Cairo Opera grounds. This was the Cairo part of CARAVAN’s 2014 exhibition titled “AMEN–A Prayer for the World,” and involved the 30 premier and emerging Egyptian artists, both Muslim and Christian, out of the 48 total number of participating artists from Egypt and the West (of Muslim, Christian and Jewish backgrounds) that will be on exhibition in Washington D.C., at the world renowned National Cathedral (opening on August 31), and then in New York City at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the world’s largest Gothic cathedral known for art (opening October 12). Each artist is painting/decorating a life-size fiberglass figure in one of four positions of prayer sculpted by participating artist and co-curator Dr. Reda Abdel Rahman. The artwork of the 30 Egyptian artists currently on display in Cairo will be shipped in late August to the United States joining with the work of 18 Western artists for joint exhibition installations in Washington D.C. and then New York City. The plan is to have the art auctioned in New York City at a charity auction for an Egyptian charity named Tawasol to help build a school in one of the poorest areas of Cairo. It was an excellent beginning to this unique 2014 interfaith art exhibition that seeks to express the deep, fundamental human acknowledgement of power and hope in the universe, for all peoples.
OUT OF CARAVAN . . . the “Priest-Imam Exchange” program
The various CARAVAN art programs offer natural contexts from which other strategic interfaith initiatives, informal and formal, naturally develop. One example is the “Imam – Priest Exchange,” a groundbreaking program that originated out of one of our CARAVAN Exhibitions / Festivals of the Arts, when it became clear that a delegation of 18 Muslim imams attending had never previously met a Christian priest/minister, even though Egypt is up to 10% Christian.
CARAVAN wrote up a proposal and secured a sponsor for a program to enhance understanding, respect, and deepen friendship between Christian priests and Muslim Imams. A pioneering effort in Egypt, the program became a reality thanks to funding from Embassy of the Netherlands, and coordination by the Episcopal Diocese of Egypt ( who took up the leadership to develop and oversee the program), in partnership with Al Azhar (the intellectual and spiritual heart of Sunni Islam). Today the Imam-Priest Exchange focuses on facilitating the building of friendships between Muslim and Christian leaders, resulting in the religious leaders becoming ambassadors of peace in their local communities. The end objective is to encourage practical ongoing grassroots cooperation between Christians and Muslims, moving from “conversational dialogue” between the two faiths to that of “practical dialogue.” This Imam-Priest Exchange initiative has been immensely successful at creating better understanding and relationships between leaders of the two faiths and within their respective communities, and is providing practical examples for co-existence, toward creating and implementing effective models of Christians and Muslims working peacefully together.
Exciting New Opportunities for CARAVAN . . .“Art can transcend where dialogue has been blocked.” Petna Ndaliko (New York Times, July 11, 2014)
CARAVAN’s Founder/President, Paul-Gordon Chandler, recently returned from an extensive trip (around the opening of the CARAVAN exhibition in Cairo) to Jordan, Israel/Palestine, Malta and Paris, France at the invitation of various groups regarding CARAVAN’s potential involvement. The meetings exceeded expectations and laid the foundation for some strategic opportunities for CARAVAN in the next couple of years. While there is much left to plan and organize, it was most encouraging. CARAVAN will share more about these special opportunities in newsletters to come. In closing, we leave you with a recent article in The New York Times about an art exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London titled “From an Indian Muslim’s Brush. . .” that descriptively communicates the heart of what CARAVAN is about.