Iraq + 3 more

Syria: Asma Al-Asad - Let us be open against every discrimination

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"Today, in Syria, we have 1.5 million Iraqis, over 500,000 Palestinian refugees and in the six weeks of the summer of 2006 some 700,000 Lebanese have crossed the border finding refuge in Syria. It would be as if 5.8 million refugees arrived in Italy in a few months. What have we done? We have opened our schools... ensured free health care... and especially we have opened our hearts, our eyes and our ears". This is one of the more significant excerpts of an interview with Asma al-Asad, wife of Syria's president Bashir al-Asad, which was published by the weekly journal "Famiglia Cristiana" today. Mrs. Al-Asad, stressed that immigration is an issue that does not only affect the North of the world; she noted that in Syria, schools and been built and new classrooms established to meet the needs of 30,000 Iraqi children, who will become 50,000 next year: "We do it - she said - because if we give minors the chance to study, we support a generation, and it does not matter that they are Iraqis; they are our neighbors". Commenting recent events, which have shown, in Italy as well, worrying signs of intolerance that often compromise peaceful coexistence, Mrs. al-Asad noted that in Syria Christians and Muslims have lived together for centuries in mutual respect: "it is something we have to protect and at the same time make it a banner around which to contrast those who look to religion as a factor for division... we need to remind that all faiths share the same values: love and compassion, respect and integrity, openness and acceptance of the other. If we return to these values, regardless of the fact that we are either Christian, Muslim or Jewish, we would discover that religion unites us". For this reason, said Asma al-Asad, we need to pay attention and oppose the drive towards division that is coming from many sides: "When I hear talk of a clash of civilizations - said the Syrian first lady - I begin to think that this is a concept coined by people with a very closed mentality. There is but one civilization, the human one, and it does not matter where you live, where you have come from. And what faith you have".