The Belgian Post Office, Bpost, announced on November 3 that in 2016 it will release a stamp that features Belgian religious leaders, including the country’s chief rabbi Albert Guigui.
The stamp, which will feature the slogan, “Everybody equal, everybody different,” is intended to promote unity and tolerance.
The stamp featuring the three religious leaders officially will be released on October 24, 2016. As far as Guigui knows, he is the first rabbi to be featured on Belgian stamp. However, the Great Synagogue of Europe was featured on a stamp back in 1978 in honor of the synagogue’s centennial.
Rabbi Guigui, who is the rabbi for the Great Synagogue of Europe in Brussels, told the Times of Israel in November 2014 that he was invited to be on the stamp along with Imam Khalid Benhaddou from Ghent and the Bishop of Antwerp Johan Bonny. Flemish photographer Lieve Blanncquaert photographed the three religious leaders standing close together and holding hands in Antwerp.
“The stamp is meant to show that in Belgium, despite what is happening and what people hear in the news, there are good relations between faiths. The photo shows us holding hands, united and working together,” said Guigui, who is 70 years old and has been chief rabbi of Belgium for the past 30 years.
Rabbi Guigui believes that a stamp can be an effective method of encouraging peace.
“A stamp, which is something used in such a widespread manner, can get the message out to all people. What is needed is to bring the interfaith cooperation and dialogue down from the level of the religious leaders to that of the everyday people,” Guigui said.
“When people start to know and speak with one another, there is less fear.”
The Jewish community in Belgium, which is approximately 40,000 people and is split between Brussels and Antwerp, in recent years has been troubled by an increasing number of anti-Semitic attacks, especially in response to Israel’s conflict with Gaza during the summer of 2014. Four people were killed after a radical Muslim carried out a shooting attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels in May 2014. However, an Anti-Defamation League survey that was published in June 2015 revealed that there has been a recent decrease in anti-Semitic attitudes in Belgium.
“The government is doing all it can to give us a sense of security. Security personnel and soldiers are guarding our schools and synagogues,” said Guigui.
“It’s quiet now but anti-Semitism wakes up here when there are problems in Israel. There has been terror lately in Israel, but it has been quiet here, at least for now.”