ITALY / An Italian cardinal, a Serbian basketball star, the Cuban-born American singer Gloria Estefan and a Muslim graffiti artist from Birmingham, UK were invited to take part in the TEDxViadellaConciliazione event on April 19th, the first ever TEDx event to take place in the Vatican State.

Though not to be confused with boxing giant Mohammad Ali, the award-winning U.K street artist bearing the same name, presented to an audience in the Vatican on how his Muslim faith has inspired his artwork and influenced his relationship with others. Mohammed Ali is the only British speaker invited to this first event in the Vatican State. He is an artist who has created thought-provoking street art in cities across the globe, with the aim of connecting people of different faiths.

Mohammed said, “It’s exciting to be presenting here in the Vatican, both as a street-artist, as well as an artist inspired by my Islamic faith. We live in extraordinary times where the notion of ‘the clash of civilizations’ is frequently banded about. I am hopeful that the ordination of the new Pope, will provide us with refreshing new opportunities of engaging and connecting with people.”

Already a global phenomenon lauded for its commitment to “ideas worth spreading,”’s online talks are gaining attention in Italy and other European countries through similarly locally organized “TEDx” events. Speakers from all walks of life and profession are invited at TED events to give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes or less. The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture has embraced the initiative of a group of academics in Rome to organize this TEDx forum on the subject of Religious Freedom – the first time ever that the theme has been tackled by a TEDx event.

One of the organizers of TEDxViadellaConciliazione, Giovanna Abbiati, explains how the speakers were selected: “At the beginning, we really scoured the earth,” she says, looking for the right people to address the conference: “from Mexico to China, from Nigeria to Serbia…(looking) for people who have real stories to tell about religious freedom.”

The conference took place on Friday April 19, 2013.

See the video of Mohammed Ali creating a piece of art live on stage:

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