Born with the aim to convey messages of non-hate, tolerance and love, Benetton has launched its UnHate campaign yesterday in Paris. The worldwide campaign is the first initiative by the newly-formed foundation of the same name, and was presented within a worldwide preview by Alessandro Benetton, Executive Deputy Chairman of Benetton Group, at the Benetton flagship store on Boulevard Haussmann.

The UnHate project includes a series of coordinated initiatives and events around the world and a dedicated foundation. The central theme is the kiss, the most universal symbol of love, between the world’s political and religious leaders, such as: US President Barack Obama and Chinese leader Hu Jintao; the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu; German chancellor Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy, President of France; Pope Benedict XVI and Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb, Imam of the Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo. According to Benetton, the intention to show such symbolic images of reconciliation - with a touch of ironic hope and constructive provocation – is to stimulate reflection on how politics, faith and ideas, even when they are divergent and mutually opposed, must still lead to dialogue and mediation.

Despite the positive intent of the initiative, both the Vatican and Islamic authorities didn't appreciate of the idea and soon after the launch expressed their disapproval. As a result, yesterday evening Benetton announced the withdrawal of the photo showing the two religious leaders. A spokesperson of Benetton group commented: “We are retracting the image. We are sorry for hurting the believers' sensitivity."