Please Respect Our Faith!

by Maricel

The United Colors of Benetton. A company who became widely known in the 1990s due to its often provocative and shocking ads has again gained another publicity. And this time is no difference than the previous ones, maybe even worse.

What used to be the company’s iconic ad which stirred the Catholic population before showing a young nun in white kissing a priest dressed in a black cassock has now been dethroned, maybe unofficially yet. This time they seem to mock the Catholic Church by showing an edited picture of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI kissing on the lips Egypt’s Ahmed el Tayyeb, imam of the Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo and a leading voice in Sunni Islam. It must be noted that Pope Benedict has strongly expressed his solidarity with the victims of the attack of the Coptic church in Alexandria early this year which was interpreted by the Muslim leader as an interference of Egypt’s internal affairs.

The UNHATE campaign of the company also shows not just religious but also political leaders whom they probably perceived to be not in good terms kissing each other’s erring counterpart like US President Barrack Obama kissing Chinese President Hu Jintao.

The Vatican has already issued a stern condemnation regarding the controversy. Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Director of the Holy See Press Office denounced the advertising campaign of the United Colors of Benetton. It was a “completely unacceptable use of the image of the Holy Father, manipulated and exploited as part of a campaign for commercial purposes. Thus, it “is a serious lack of respect for the Pope, an insult to the feelings of the faithful, and a clear demonstration of how in advertising you can violate basic rules of respect for people to attract attention by means of provocation.” He further added how the Vatican Secretary of State is considering steps to protect the Holy Father’s image.

Benetton UNHATE campaign

Benetton had already pulled out the controversial ad showing the Pope and el- Tayyeb amidst rising protest and heated denunciation from various religious sectors. The company  expressed “sorry that the use of the image had so hurt the sensibilities of the faithful” yet defended the ad by stating its purpose “was solely to battle the culture of hate in all its forms” , which is something I won’t trade for a dime.

How could such ad campaign be aimed at battling the culture of hate (in all its forms) when you are only making a possible wider  gap between concerned parties? And we are not just talking here of two people but millions of people professing that faith in which relations may be severely affected by a disrespectful act of one company . Benetton did stress an issue, but it didn’t do anything to help the situation, in fact it just made it worse. Muslims and Christians still need some time to talk things over, and certainly bad publicity would not do any good to further that aim. Furthermore, Muslims and Christians may differ in views and in many aspects of faith, but I believe it is possible to live in the world with a fellow Muslim as a neighbor.

United Colors of Benetton. Colors, unity, solidarity. Just a thought, how much does this diversity in the world’s belief matter to the company? Does it make the world rhymed in perfect harmony if these diversity is curtailed?

My brother’s bestfriend is a Muslim, but they respect each other’s belief as their own. Now my plea for Benetton and for those whose views may vary with mine, please RESPECT OUR FAITH!

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