'Human fraternity' document promotes interfaith dialogue

By Nohad Topalian in Beirut

Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Cairo’s Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmad al-Tayeb signed the 'Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together' on February 4th in Abu Dhabi. [Photo courtesy of the UAE Embassy in Lebanon]

Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Cairo’s Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmad al-Tayeb signed the 'Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together' on February 4th in Abu Dhabi. [Photo courtesy of the UAE Embassy in Lebanon]

One month after the signing of the "Human Fraternity" document in Abu Dhabi, the UAE has already set the path for implementing the principles of co-existence and tolerance contained within the document, an official told Al-Mashareq.

The "Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together" was signed February 4th between the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, and the grand imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb.

It was hailed by the Vatican as an "important step forward in the dialogue between Christians and Muslims".

It called for "freedom of belief", the "promotion of a culture of tolerance", the "protection of places of worship" and "full citizenship" rights for minorities.

UAE Ambassador to Lebanon Hamad al-Shamsi told Al-Mashareq that Pope Francis’s visit to the UAE and resulting signing of the Human Fraternity document underline the fact that the UAE is a "global centre for human co-existence and tolerance".

This is in line with UAE president Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan's initiative of declaring 2019 the Year of Tolerance, he said.

"The UAE will strive to achieve the principles contained within the document in a realistic and tangible way... in order to establish the pillars for a better society whose motto is 'co-existence of civilisations and religions'," al-Shamsi said.

New fund for co-existence

On February 6th, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan announced the establishment of the Zayed Global Fund for Co-existence to provide financial grants to initiatives and projects around the world that promote a culture of peaceful co-existence and human fraternity.

The fund will cover various sectors such as education, social development, and cultural and cognitive development, al-Shamsi said.

It will focus on the development of education curricula that promote the values of human fraternity and the allocation of scholarships for post-graduate students to conduct scientific research on the principles contained in the document.

The fund also will offer training programmes for teachers so that they can serve as "messengers of communication and understanding" and instill cultural values in their students, he added.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan announced that the document will be part of the curricula at public schools and universities starting next year, al-Shamsi said.

"The UAE will form an international working group to sponsor the document, disseminate it around the world and invite clerics, politicians and global influential figures to sign it and adopt its civilisational principles," he added.

Co-operation between East, West

The Human Fraternity document is the culmination of a series of conferences held in Cairo at the invitation of the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, the Archeparch of the Maronite Catholic Archeparchy of Beirut, Paul Matar, said.

The document "created a positive atmosphere", because it emphasizes that "dialogue is our path, co-operation is our way, and becoming acquainted with each other is our goal", he told Al-Mashareq.

"It is the positive outcome of the dialogue between religions and civilisations, and confirms the East’s recognition that it needs the West’s advancement, and the West’s recognition that it needs the East’s principles and spirituality," Matar said.

"We are looking at new co-operation between East and West and a sincere call to accept each other," he said.

"We know that the world today does not live in fraternity but rather in hatred, antipathy, strife, wars and injustice. For that reason, the document calls for fraternity, and every signatory will work to redress grievances and change the face of the world," he said.

Matar stressed that the document is not directed "only at clerics, but also politicians, presidents, and scholars and thinkers of all divine religions, to stop wars and return to dialogue".

'Terrorism affects everyone'

This is the first time "a frank, meaningful and brotherly meeting takes place between the two highest Christian and Islamic authorities", said Mohammed al-Nuqari, sharia judge of Beirut and lecturer at St. Joseph University's faculty of law.

"The document is a first step toward consolidating the ties between the two religions on strong foundations, and we hope that it will lead to the formation of a committee of Christian-Islamic sages from all over the world who would meet periodically to discuss issues of concern to Muslims and Christians," he told Al-Mashareq.

The document comes "at a time when our world suffers from terrorism, extremism and takfir in the name of Islam", he said.

What is stated in the document "is very important", he said, "as we have seen that terrorism affects everyone".

"We need to apply the principles stated in the document to ascend to human fraternity."

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