Document on Human Fraternity and agreement to help bring an end to conflicts and fight extremism forged in UAE

By Cheng Ordoñez, Editor-in-Chief

Two of the world’s top religious leaders have inked a covenant considered as a historic document, forging a Muslim-Christian fraternity and a mutual agreement to fight extremism.

The Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Dr. Ahmed At-Tayyeb, and Pope Francis have signed the “Abu Dhabi Declaration,” a document on Human Fraternity in the United Arab Emirates during the Pope’s three-day visit in Abu Dhabi, the capital.

The “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” seeks to encourage stronger relationships between people to promote coexistence among peoples and to confront extremism and its negative impacts.

The signing ceremony was held in the presence of H.H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, and attended by more than 400 religious leaders.

During the ceremony Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum also presented the first “Human Fraternity Award – From Dar Zayed” that was jointly given to the Grand Imam and Pope Francis.

The award was given to Dr. Ahmed at-Tayyeb in recognition of his firm position in defense of moderation, tolerance, global values and his vehement rejection of radical extremism.

Pope Francis, who is well known as an advocate for tolerance and the laying aside of differences and for his determined call for the pursuit of peace and fraternity among humanity, has recognized the covenant as a continued commitment and approach.

In a speech before signing the Abu Dhabi Declaration, Pope Francis said hatred and violence in the name of God cannot be justified, praising the value of education in reducing conflict.

Dr. At-Tayyeb, one of the world’s foremost Muslim leaders, called on Muslims to protect Christian communities in the Middle East and for Muslims in the West to integrate into their communities.

Photo courtesy of Mohamed Al Baloushi, Ministry of Presidential Affairs/AETOSWire

“You are part of this nation. You are not minorities,” he said during his speech at the ceremony.

The ceremony was part of the broader Human Fraternity Meeting that has witnessed the first ever Papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula and hosted by the UAE Government.

Meanwhile, a meeting dubbed as “Global Conference of Human Fraternity” opened with a welcome from HE Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, UAE’s Minister of Tolerance, where he “encourages compassion, respect and understanding among different communities, cultures and religions”, and a call to “counter extremism, prejudice, hate, aggression, greed, and oppression that violate the very idea of human fraternity.”

The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces led the conference, which was convened by the Muslim Council of Elders, an Abu Dhabi-based independent international organization headed by His Eminence, the Grand Imam At-Tayeb, to discuss the encouragement of fraternity as a core human value.

Dr. Sultan Faisal Al Remeithi, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Elders, said: “This distinguished forum in Abu Dhabi reflects the important cultural and humanitarian role that the UAE plays in promoting a global culture of peace and reinforcing the key concept of citizenship while remaining respectful of diversity and tolerance of different faiths.”

The conference was held in conjunction with the inaugural visit of Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State to the UAE. Under the theme “Make me a Channel of Your Peace,” Pope Francis’s visit – the first of its kind to the Arab Gulf region – represents a call for global fraternal collaboration based on peaceful dialogue and cooperation, mutual tolerance, and a rejection of extremism and violence.

Highlights of the conference included two sessions devoted to exploring “Principles of Human Fraternity” and “Common Responsibility for Achieving Human Fraternity” through insights from senior government, religious and intellectual leaders on the critical importance of promoting fraternity, tolerance and citizenship awareness as ways of preventing extremism and conflict.

The first session, chaired by H.E. Noura bint Mohammed Al Kaabi, UAE minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, featured an all-female panel of experts discussing the role of women in achieving productive cooperation filled with trust, respect, and love. The second session featured a call by Rabbi Michael Schudrich, chief Rabbi of Poland, for mutual tolerance based on every individual’s understanding of how others may see things differently, including everyone’s path to God.

Both sessions were framed by intensive workshops on tolerance, humanity and coexistence, which discussed ways in which fraternity could be reinforced and spread as a global value. Among the many topics discussed at these workshops was the need for peaceful coexistence as every man, woman and child wants access to peace, justice, dignity, cooperation and most importantly love as shared traits among humankind.

Delegates also stressed the practice of human fraternity as a foundation for collaboration across different nationalities and religions. (With AETOSWire)

Global Conference on Human Fraternity. Religious leaders attend the conference, which opened with a welcome from HE Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, UAE’s Minister of Tolerance. (Photo courtesy of Mohamed Al Baloushi, Ministry of Presidential Affairs/AETOSWire)