"The Document of Human Fraternity" A Triumph for Tolerance and Mercy
Dr. Ahmad Al-Zohbi
Researcher and University Professor
With objectivity and honesty, much can be said regarding the "Document of Human Fraternity" signed by Pope Francis and the Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in Abu Dhabi (February 4, 2019). It was a historic event in every sense of the word, and it opened doors for the creation of another future of peace, openness, love and cooperation, not only between Catholicism and Islam but between all human components.
An Exceptional Pope
To begin with, it is essential to remember that Pope Francis is an exceptional figure, representing a new kind of popes, a personality unprecedented in the Catholic Church, with unique vision, aspirations and relationship with Muslims. He is in a true solidarity, in word and deed, with the strife of the poor and the suffering around the world, and on numerous occasions has sent special signs of affection towards Muslims as the most distressed among the nations, and as the largest religion in the world in terms of the number of adherents, is subject to injustice by the people of other religions, and by Western countries in particular. Pope Francis was in all his positions and his constant moves a man of peace, dialogue, and coexistence, a man of friendship towards Muslims, and a man to defend just causes.
Immediately after assuming the Holy See back in 2013, he took the name Francis. Francis lived in Assisi in Southern Italy. He is the monk who founded the Franciscan order. He lived in the middle of the fourteenth century and gathered around him a group of wandering monks who are keen not to have anything alike Jesus Christ and to serve the poor who were stricken by wars and plagues at that time. But what many do not know about that monk is that he was very keen on and confident about making peace with the Muslims, and step out of the Crusades. He even met King Al Kamil Al Ayubi, Sultan of Egypt, who had a treaty with the Crusaders and handed over Jerusalem to them after his uncle conquered it Saladin, and he was unable to defend it. Many stories are told about the two men, and on the guidance of monk of Assisi, Pope Francis says it is not only an entrance for the poor and tormented, but also the for relations of affection with Muslims.
The new element in the relationship between Pope Francis and the Muslims is that the Pope speaks of the Muslim faith. Unlike the old traditional ecclesiastical texts (for example, Vatican II, 1962-1965) that describe Muslims as people who worship God, and belong to Abraham, Pope Francis speaks of Muslims, and Islam as a religion of faith, peace and mercy for all human beings, and considers that the wars of the past, and the terrorist events in the present, should become lessons to learn.
Furthermore, Pope Francis stated that he considered Islam as the religion of mercy and charity in 2016. He made 2016 the year of mercy, 2017 a year to fight poverty, 2018 the year for hospitality and the rights of migrants and refugees. Before the UAE, he had visited cities of the Muslim world, such as Palestine and Jordan in 2014, Egypt in 2017, and after Abu Dhabi in February 2019 he will visit Morocco in March.
Document for the present and the future
The meeting of Pope Francis with the Sheikh of Al-Azhar in Abu Dhabi was not the first of its kind. The two were acquainted and linked by affection. Sheikh el-Tayeb received the pope in Egypt in 2017 and they were there to witness a number of important statements on fighting against extremism and terrorism, and promoting citizenship and coexistence. "The Document of Human Fraternity", which is somewhat similar to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; it is based on religious and moral values such as mercy, love, equity, acceptance of the other, righteousness and wealth, and the pursuit of peace and brotherhood, thus gaining exceptional importance to confront the rising rhetoric of populism, racism and extremism around the world. Establishes a new era of relations between the two most widespread religions in the world.
In fact, the revival of the value of tolerance is required not only by Muslims but also from other world religions to counter the epidemic of extremism, terrorism, Islamophobia and injustice, including Muslims in China and Burma, for example, and to urge international regimes and entities to abide by charters, which respect human rights and public freedoms, including freedom of religion and belief. These values (showing moderation and cooperative tolerance to the world), combined with sound development policies and full citizenship, guarantee human well-being, welfare, social security and effective participation, resulting in stability, progress and prosperity.
The Emirates of Tolerance
The UAE, declaring year 2019 as the year of tolerance, is proud to foster millions of humans belonging to the diverse world religions, and to hundreds of nationalities, living together in her land peacefully and freely, practicing their worship at their ease in a respectful ambiance. In the UAE, there are two great institutions for dialogue and interfaith communication, against extremism: The Council of Muslim Elders- usually presided by the Grand Imam of Al Azhar-, and the Forum for Promoting Peace (Presided by Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah). Moreover, the UAE is deploying great efforts on the international level to fight against poverty, illiteracy, and disease, and to help solving internal conflict and promoting peace. This way, the UAE will have developed tolerance from just an idea to a mission, and from a mission to general policies in governments, in media, and in education. UAE had already established a Ministry of Tolerance in its Federal government, taken in charge by Sheikh Mubarak bin Nahyan Al Nahyan.
The world is full of injustice, lacking standards and values, and so we have two options: either coexistence, tolerance, mercy, cooperation, or extremism, murder and the violating rights. There is no room for prejudice in the battle for great human values.