2004-12-11 01:18:07 UTC
December 9, 2004
Furor in Italy Over Scrapping of Christmas Play
By Philip Pullella
ROME -- An Italian school's substitution of a Nativity play with
Little Red Riding Hood so as not to offend Muslim children has raised
the Vatican's ire and sparked debate on how much traditions should
change to accommodate immigrants.
The episode was the latest in a series in recent weeks which made
headlines as overwhelmingly Catholic Italy comes to grips with an
ever-growing Muslim population which some see as a blessing for the
economy and others as a threat.
Last week, a public elementary school in the northern city of Treviso
decided that Little Red Riding Hood would be this year's Christmas
play instead of the Christmas story.
The teachers said the famous tale was a fitting representation of the
struggle between good and evil and would not offend Muslim children.
The school's traditional nativity scene was scrapped for the same
In another school near Milan, the word "Jesus" was removed from a
Christmas hymn and substituted with the word "virtue." In Vicenza
province an annual contest for the best Nativity scene in schools was
"Are we losing our minds?," said Reforms Minister Roberto Calderoli,
an outspoken member of the populist Northern League. "Do we want to
erase our identity for the love of Allah?"
"It is a perfect example of how not to respect the presence of
different people, in this case our Muslim brothers, by annihilating
our own identity," said Bishop Agostino Marchetto, head of the
Vatican's department for migrants.
"We have to accept others but others have to accept our identity," he
Italy, with a population of 57 million, is home to an estimated one
million officially registered Muslims, making Islam the country's
second largest religion. But social services groups say the number is
much higher and growing.