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The Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester
Established to develop the cultural and social ties between the Muslim and Jewish communities of Greater Manchester

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Forum members visit Bulgaria

Our Forum exists to promote friendship between the Muslim and Jewish Communities of Greater Manchester. Friendship between communities requires friendship between individuals.

For over 14 years, some Forum members have gone on holiday together each year (except when prevented by the pandemic), at their own expense, to places of Muslim and Jewish interest. This year five of them went to Sofia, capital of Bulgaria.

Bulgaria has a long history, with Sofia being an important stop on the Roman road connecting northern Italy with the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, Byzantium, later called Constantinople and then Istanbul. Our travellers spent some time in the recently excavated Roman ruins in central Sofia.

Most Bulgarians are Eastern Orthodox Christians, but for 500 years the country was ruled by the Muslim Ottoman Empire, only gaining its independence in 1878 with military help from the Russian Tsar.

During World War 2, Bulgaria was initially neutral, but in March 1941 due to the large German armies on its borders, Bulgaria was forced to join the German led Axis alliance. However, King Boris III refused to hand over Bulgarian Jews to the Nazis, saving about 50,000 lives.

The 2021 census showed that Bulgaria is about 65% Christian (almost all Orthodox), 10% Muslim, and about 25% with no religious affiliation or not answering the religion question. The Jewish population is under 2,000, representing about 0.03% of Bulgarians.

Amongst other locations, the local tour guide took the party to Tolerance Square in central Sofia. Standing in the square, one can see four key religious buildings:

Forum Co-Chair Cllr Heather Fletcher, who is Jewish, said:

“For most of us, this was our 11th trip abroad travelling as a Muslim Jewish Forum party. I found Sofia to be one of the most interesting cities we have visited as it is so steeped in history and there is evidence of the different periods of occupation on every corner and stunning architecture.

Being Jewish I was pleased to learn how King Boris III dispersed the country's 50,000 Jews to villages so the Nazis would not find them but I also found it disappointing that most Jews had now left Bulgaria .Seeing places of Muslim and Jewish interest and learning about the lives of Muslims and Jews in different countries helps to bond our travelling group even more.”

The photograph below shows the travellers at the Banya Bashi Mosque. From right to left:

Photo of travellers in front of Sofia Mosque

The photo below shows the group at the corner of the Sofia Synagogue. This was built in 1909 and is the largest synagogue in South Eastern Europe with a capacity of 1,300.



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The Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester
Established to develop the cultural and social ties between the Muslim and Jewish Communities of Greater Manchester

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