How Zayed Award for Human Fraternity amplifies open-minded voices of all faiths and cultures

Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan (L) watches as Pope Francis (C) and Egypt’s Azhar Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb sign documents during the Human Fraternity Meeting in 2019. (AFP/File Photo)

Source: Arab News

CALINE MALEK November 27, 2021

  • The Zayed Award for Human Fraternity was launched in 2019 following Pope Francis’ historic visit to Abu Dhabi
  • Zayed Award committee judge Leah Pisar explains why religious tolerance is needed now more than ever

DUBAI: Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church, delivered a message of hope and tolerance during a recent meeting at the Vatican with the judging committee of the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity 2022.

“We have to maintain and sustain” the path of human fraternity, he told the committee at its Oct. 6 gathering, which took place less than two months before nominations are due to close for this year’s award on Dec. 1.

The award was created to build on the historic Feb. 4, 2019, meeting in Abu Dhabi between Pope Francis and the grand imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed Al-Tayeb.

Their meeting, which marked the first-ever papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula, culminated in the co-signing of the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, also known as the Abu Dhabi declaration.

It was born of a fraternal discussion between the two religious leaders to guide others in advancing a “culture of mutual respect,” which Francis later described as “no mere diplomatic gesture, but a reflection born of dialogue and common commitment.”

The document led to the creation of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity and the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity under the patronage of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi.

The award, now in its third edition, is named in honor of Sheikh Mohammed’s late father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, founder of the UAE. It is an independent global prize launched in recognition of those making a profound contribution to human progress and peaceful coexistence.

The 2021 prize was jointly awarded to Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, and French-Moroccan activist Latifa Ibn Ziaten, founder of the Imad Association for Youth and Peace, who, after losing her son to an act of terrorism, transformed her sorrow into outreach to young people.

His Holiness Pope Francis with members of the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity at the Vatican. (Supplied)

Among the award’s judging committee are Mahamadou Issoufou, former president of Niger and winner of the 2020 Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, and Jose Ramos-Horta, former president of East Timor.

Also on the committee are Judge Mohamed Abdelsalam, secretary-general of the Higher Committee on Human Fraternity and co-author of the Document on Human Fraternity, and Leah Pisar, president of the Aladdin Project.

“It was an extraordinary gathering, and the meeting really gave me hope at a moment when we need hope,” Pisar told Arab News following her meeting with Pope Francis.

“We are at a critical juncture in human history, and we have no choice but to seize it because humanity could really go one way or the other if we are not vigilant. I see this declaration as a very bold and courageous call to action.”

The Aladdin Project is an international NGO that was launched by the late French President Jacques Chirac and several other heads of state to promote rapprochement of cultures and the use of lessons from history to overcome hate and extremism. It has a partnership with UNESCO.

Pisar said the fact that the award is overseen by the pope and the grand imam of Al-Azhar gives it immense credibility, and the force, depth, and resonance necessary to make the public and community leaders sit up and listen.

“I am the only Jewish member of this jury and was received very warmly,” Pisar said. “I felt embraced and welcomed, and this is something very important because it highlights the fact that everybody who is a part of this understands the term ‘brothers and sisters’ — we all pray to the same God, there is a common humanity and far more that unites us than sets us apart.”

Twitter: @CalineMalek

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