Pavel and Caputova Kick Off Meeting Brno Festival on Czech-Slovak Relations

The opening night events took place in the gardens of the Low-Beer and Tugendhat villas. Photo credit: Petr Pavel, via Facebook. 

Brno, June 23 (CTK) – The ‘Meeting Brno’ Festival, devoted to relations between Czechs and Slovaks, the position of women in the church, and education, started yesterday with an opening ceremony, the main event being a debate between Czech President Petr Pavel and his Slovak counterpart Zuzana Caputova.

They were greeted with applause from around 1,500 people in the gardens of the Low-Beer and Tugendhat villas.

It was in Villa Tugendhat that the Czech and Slovak delegations negotiated the division of Czechoslovakia in 1992.

“We would like to shift the perception of this place from a symbol of the division of our two states to a symbol of mutual partnership and cooperation,” said festival director Petr Kalousek. The organisers also note how many young Slovaks are living, studying and working in the Czech Republic, especially in Brno.

Today, the play ‘Today We Divide’, an imaginary dialogue between then Czech prime minister Vaclav Klaus and Slovak prime minister Vladimir Meciar, premieres at the villa. 

An individual programme line of the festival focuses on education. “We are focusing on how we have integrated the experiences of Ukrainian children in our schools over the last year,” said programme director Marketa Spetikova. There will also be a debate with Czech Education Minister Mikulas Bek (STAN) and other experts on 26 June at Spilberk castle.

Another theme of the festival is the position of women in the church.

Since 2016, the Meeting Brno Festival has been trying to bring together different opinions and cultures, promote interfaith dialogue and give a platform to minorities. The 11-day festival will offer other discussions, exhibitions, lectures, concerts, theatre performances and film screenings. It also commemorates the forced departure of the German-speaking inhabitants of Brno after the end of World War Two.

At the festival, two large bouquets in the colours of the Czech and Slovak flags were presented to each president by Brno’s Muslim community, to symbolically commemorate 25 years of the existence of the Brno mosque, the first in the Czech Republic.

Muneeb Hassan Alrawi of the Brno Islamic Foundation told CTK that Muslim university students in the Czech Republic and Slovakia contributed money for the purchase of the land and the construction of the mosque in the 1990s. The opening ceremony of the mosque took place on July 2, 1998. 

The communities in both countries are still connected. Alrawi said that for Muslims, Brno remained a link between the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Alrawi said the Muslim community in Brno now wanted to express its gratitude to the Czech and Slovak nations and their leaders for the openness and tolerance shown towards the community.

Alrawi is currently on a pilgrimage to Mecca, so the bouquets were delivered by his son.

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