Stress laid on interfaith cooperation at Expo 2020 Dubai event to mark Human Fraternity Day

Cardinal Miguel Angel Ayuso, Sheikh Nahyan Mubarak Al-Nahyan and Dr Muhammad Al-Duwaini Al-Azhar, the Deputy of the Grand Imam, attend a round table entitled “Human fraternity and the Global Tolerance Alliance” in Dubai. (AFP)

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February 05, 2022

  • Pope Francis and Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb co-signed the Document for Human Fraternity on Feb. 4, 2019
  • Speaking to Arab News, Cardinal Miguel Angel Ayuso urged all faith communities to work together to counter shared global challenges

DUBAI: The Document for Human Fraternity was “a milestone on the path of interreligious dialogue,” Cardinal Miguel Angel Ayuso told Arab News on the sidelines of an event at Expo 2020 Dubai marking the International Day of Human Fraternity.

He was one of several faith leaders who gathered at the Expo’s Sustainability Pavilion on Friday to mark the third anniversary of the signing — by Pope Francis of the Catholic Church and Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb, grand imam of Al-Azhar — of the document in Abu Dhabi on Feb. 4, 2019.

The joint declaration called for peace among all peoples, while setting out a blueprint for a culture of dialogue and collaboration between all faiths.

“We are citizens of the world,” said Ayuso, from Spain, who is the president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and a renowned historian of Islam.

“All believers of God must work together to counter the problems we are facing today. It is important to cultivate values and to maintain a relationship with religion, whether it’s in church, a mosque or a synagogue.”

To mark the anniversary, Pope Francis and Sheikh El-Tayeb sent video messages in which they called for continued interfaith understanding.

“Now is not a time for indifference,” Pope Francis said. “Either we are brothers and sisters or everything falls apart.”

Sheikh El-Tayeb said: “This celebration means a quest for a better world where the spirit of tolerance, fraternity, solidarity and collaboration prevails. It also indicates a hope for providing effective tools to face the crises and challenges of contemporary humanity.

“We have embarked on this path in the hope for a new world that is free of wars and conflicts, where the fearful are reassured, the poor sustained, the vulnerable protected and justice administered.”

Opening the celebrations, Judge Mohammed Abdelsalam, secretary-general of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity, emphasized the ways in which the Document for Human Fraternity has empowered people to fight prejudice and increase accountability, offering protection for “the haves and have-nots, the rich and the poor, and both genders.”

The Higher Committee of Human Fraternity was founded by authorities in the UAE to determine the recipients of the Zayed Award, which is awarded each year to people or organizations “who embody through their work this lifelong commitment to human fraternity.”

Last year’s recipients were UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Latifa Ibn Ziaten, a Moroccan-French activist who has campaigned tirelessly against radicalization since losing her son in a terrorist attack 10 years ago.

Speaking during Friday’s event in Dubai, Mohammed Al-Diwaini, Al-Azhar deputy director of the grand imam, said it is imperative to “drop any sicknesses” of hatred and discrimination in favor of religious tolerance.

“If we follow our religion in its right form and without misinterpretation, we would be living in the best condition possible,” he told attendees.

The opening ceremony included a short video highlighting leaders who had served the cause of coexistence, including Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr. and Sheikh Zayed, who was the driving force behind the formation of the UAE and championed plurality throughout his life.

To mark the International Day of Human Fraternity, US President Joe Biden sent a letter to the Higher Committee calling for global solidarity to meet the challenges of the day.

“From the ongoing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic and the existential climate crisis to the rise of violence around the world, these challenges require global cooperation from people of all backgrounds, cultures, faiths and beliefs,” Biden wrote.

He added that these challenges “require us to speak with one another in open dialogue, to promote tolerance, inclusion and understanding. Above all, they require us to be open minded, cooperative and empathetic and to ensure that all people are treated with dignity and as full participants in society.”

Echoing these sentiments, Cardinal Ayuso said the pandemic has been a challenge for people of all religious backgrounds, but added that faith has helped to guide communities through the crisis and would help them recover.

“In light of today’s pandemic that pushed people to lockdown, numbers of believers at houses of worship went down but I believe their faith grew stronger in their hearts,” he told Arab News.

“Some complain religion should not be active in society but religion is not a problem; rather it is a part of a solution.”


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