Books, Bridges of Peace: an extraordinary project in the difficult context of the Middle East

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“In a historical and political context such as the one now facing us, in which fanatics seek to destroy all coexistence, it is important to show that history has bequeathed us a different legacy, which is not only to be preserved but to be transmitted with determination, for here in the Middle East different cultures and faiths have always interacted and built relationships, each one has always been ‘contaminated’ by the others. These books represent the formal proof of this, and it is essential to continue to make this history known through your work and ours.”

These were the words pronounced by Father Pizzaballa, Custos of the Holy Land and President of Association pro Terra Sancta, at the presentation of the exhibition “MFH Manuscripta Franciscana Hierosolimytana”. Words that are more timely than ever today, when books and culture in general appear to be increasingly menaced by violence, destruction and the desire to eliminate any possibility of coexistence among different cultures.

For this reason the project entitled “Books, Bridges of Peace” and the online catalogue created in recent years with the collaboration of numerous experts and volunteers represents an extraordinary example of how culture can provide the possibility to preserve a past rich in blending and mutual influences. The importance of the Library of the Custody of the Holy Land, in operation in Jerusalem for more than five centuries and accordingly representing an immense treasure in terms of the variety and preciousness of the books it contains, is all the more important in view of the difficult context in which it finds itself today.

The project is supported by Association pro Terra Sancta and the European Research Center on Books, Publishing and Libraries (CRELEB) at the Catholic University of Milan.