U.S. Special Envoy and head of the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Hannah Rosenthal and U.S. Special Representative to Muslim Communities Farah Pandith visited Tirana March 8-9 to encourage Albanian youth involvement in the “2012 Hours Against Hate” initiative. Special Envoy Rosenthal and Special Representative Pandith met with PM Sali Berisha, Minister of Culture Aldo Bumçi, Tirana Mayor Lulzim Basha, as well as civil society and religious groups’ representatives to discuss Albania’s religious tolerance and freedoms. The highlights of their visit were a meeting with “Haxhi Mahmud Dauti” Madrassa students and faculty, as well as a panel discussion on religious diversity and harmony and the “2012 Hours Against Hate” initiative with Tirana University students.
Rosenthal and Pandith appealed to students to get involved in the “2012 Hours Against Hate” initiative, volunteer some of their time -- “do something for someone who doesn’t look like you, pray like you, or live like you. We are asking the next generation to work together to build a stronger, more prosperous world. No one group can do it alone.” Rosenthal recalled that Albania saved all Jews during WWII and “did what was right and honorable.” Pandith encouraged Albanian students to write on the initiative’s Facebook page and share Albania’s modern day success story, “where you don’t label a person a ‘Muslim,’ an ‘Orthodox,’ or a ‘Catholic,’ but simply Albanian.”
Tirana was the last leg of the tour to promote the “2012 Hours Against Hate” initiative, following London and Athens. “2012 Hours Against Hate” is a campaign to stop bigotry and promote respect across lines of culture, religion, tradition, class, and gender. Rosenthal officially launched the initiative on February 17, 2011, “2012 Hours Against Hate” at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna. More information on the “2012 Hours against Hate” initiative can be found at http://www.state.gov/s/2012hoursagainsthate/