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On September 1, an interreligious match for peace brought together two “dream teams” of former and current soccer stars including Javier Zanetti, Diego Armando Maradona, Ronaldinho and Gianluigi Buffon, with players representing the Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim and Shinto faiths. SGI-Italy member Roberto Baggio was among the players who took part.
Inspired by Pope Francis and against a backdrop of increasing conflict and violence in the international arena, this, the first Interreligious Match for Peace, organized by Scholas Occurrentes and Fondazione P.U.P.I., attracted a crowd of 20,000 people to the Olympic Stadium in Rome and was broadcast live to 51 countries around the world.
On the field, the match was played in an atmosphere of trust, fellowship and friendship. Mr. Baggio described a “climate of harmony, peace and friendship” between staff both behind the scenes and on the pitch whether with teammates or opponents. “Although everyone wanted to win and do well,” he said, “there was no aggression.”
At the opening ceremony of the event, an olive tree was jointly planted by representatives of different faiths. Representatives included the general director of SGI-Italy, Tamotsu Nakajima; the vice president of the Italian Islamic Religious Community, Imam Yahya Sergio Yahe Pallavicini; the president of the Jewish Community of Rome, Riccardo Pacifici; and a representative of the Catholic Church.
To signify our never-ending quest for peace and symbolize the never-ending nature of the match, the referee stopped play with two whistles rather than the regulatory three.
related article SGI-Luxembourg Participates in Interfaith Concert On March 22, SGI-Luxembourg joined representatives of the various religious communities in the City of Luxembourg for the 6th Interfaith Concert. The concert was held at Luxembourg City Synagogue and organized by Action Groupe Inter-Religions (AGIR) of which SGI-Luxembourg is a member. After the match, the 56 people who took part, some of the best soccer players and coaches in the world, signed a Manifesto for Peace. Phrases of the manifesto were then read out in various languages by Javier Zanetti (Italian and Spanish), Samuel Eto’o (French), Andriy Schevchenko (Ukrainian), Sulley Ali Muntari (English), David “Dudu” Aouate (Hebrew) and Roberto Baggio in Italian.
Scholas Occurrentes is an educational entity launched by Pope Francis that promotes social integration and a “culture of encounter” through art, sport and technology. Fondazione P.U.P.I. was founded by Argentine ace soccer player Javier Zanetti and his wife to provide aid to disadvantaged children mostly in Argentina’s Buenos Aires Province.
The €2,490,000 raised by the event will go toward a project providing assistance to children between the ages of 3–13 run by Fondazione P.U.P.I. and toward expanding the educational network of Scholas Occurrentes to more than 300,000 establishments in 35 countries across Europe, Africa and Latin America.
[Adapted from a report from SGI-Italy and the Match for Peace website; photos courtesy of SGI-Italy]
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