"The Document on Human Fraternity" Is Not Just About Declaring Good Intentions
Judge Abbas Al-Halabi
President of the Arab Team for Muslim Christian Dialogue
As the culmination of Pope Francis’ visit to the United Arab Emirates, and at the occasion UAE proclaiming this year the year of tolerance, and as the result of the Pope’s meeting with the Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, the "Document of Human Fraternity for World Peace and Coexistence" was issued, with an introduction and a conclusion.
The introduction outlines the principles on which the document was based, most notably the unity of faith and the desire to provide assistance to every human being, especially the weak and the neediest and destitute. The fraternal talks that brought together the poles of Christianity and Islam have resulted in a common declaration based on good and sincere intentions so that this document will serve as a guide for future generations to foster a culture of mutual respect in order to realize the great divine grace.
Equal and Responsible
Since the document was listed in the name of those who were issued from God the Creator of all human beings equal in rights, duties and dignity and in the name of the human soul which God has prohibited to make suffer and in the name of the poor, the wretched, the deprived, the marginalized, the orphans, the widows, the peoples, the human fraternity, freedom, justice, mercy and persons of good will, this document is directed to intellectuals, philosophers, clergymen, artists, media, creators and others.
The document presented the positive aspects of modern civilization. On the other hand, it painted a grim scene of the decline of spiritual values and sense of responsibility, and how religious extremism, nationalism and intolerance have produced phenomena in the world, whether in the West or in the East.
It also presented the consequences of the political crises that unjustly resulted in the lack of equity in wealth distribution and fatal crises despite the wealth. It categorized the family as an indispensable nucleus of society and humanity, and the importance of awakening the religious sense, and also emphasizing that the goal of religions first and foremost is faith in God and worship. Religions have never been a source of war, hatred, hostility, fanaticism, violence nor bloodshed.
Here, the document referred to the previous global documents that pointed out the importance of the role of religions and emphasized a number of new concepts for building world peace:
- The correct teachings of religions call for adherence to the values of peace and uphold the values of mutual acquaintance and brotherhood of humanity and coexistence.
- Freedom is the right of every human being
- Justice is based on mercy
- The dialogue is based on understanding and spreading a culture of tolerance and acceptance of the other
- Dialogue between believers means meeting the vast forgiveness of spiritual and human values.
- The protection of places of worship is a duty and their targeting is a departure from the teachings of religions.
- Terrorism threatens the security of people east and west to the north and south.
- Citizenship must be based on equality in duties and rights.
- It requires renunciation of the use of the term minorities.
- There is no need to establish a relationship between East and West and to highlight the vitality of its necessity and importance.
- Recognition is the right of women to education, work and exercise their political rights.
- Emphasize the rights of children
- The need to protect the elderly, the weak and people with special needs
Pledge and Symbolism
In conclusion, this document highlights the commitment of the two authorities to convey it to global decision-makers, religious leaders, organizations and institutions, and to become a subject of research in schools, universities and institutes. The aim of this document is to call for reconciliation and brotherhood. Between East, West, North and South in order to reach a universal peace in which everyone is entitled.
However, beyond this document, a number of issues relating to the symbolism of the place from which it was issued, the symbolism of the two poles that developed it and the evolution represented by this document in relation to other earlier documents, must be looked upon.
Indeed, the declaration of the United Arab Emirates in 2019 as a year of tolerance allowed this country to bring the two poles to its care. The UAE hosts residents from more than 200 nationalities who practice a multitude of religions from different countries in the world, and different religious identities, not only from monotheistic religions but even from other faiths, in freedom of belief and worship. More than 47 temples and churches enable believers to practice their religious rites freely but under the law and public order of the state.
The broad minded leadership of the State, endowed with deep faith, as well as intellectual, religious and cultural tolerance, has enabled not only all the residents to earn their living freely, but also to exercise their religious life freely.
It also provided the opportunity for the pope for the first time in history to set foot on the Arabian Peninsula, the cradle of Islam and Muslims in total tolerance. This visit was demonstrated by a festive mass at the Zayed Sports Complex, attended by more than one hundred and thirty thousand people, among them Muslims from different Arab countries.
Trust and Sorrow
What also manifests the success of Pope Francis’ visit is that, unlike his predecessors, he has always had a higher level of sympathy for the oppressed and the burdened. The marginalized, the poor and the needy occupy the first rank of importance in his papacy, as we have seen in many situations and events.
In this sense, he is also sympathetic to the injustice done to Islam in terms of the charging it with terrorism and violence, while it is the most widely embraced religion in the world. The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, who for years has been sponsoring conferences, meetings and discussions that led to issuing several documents. Some of those are related to Egypt as a special case, and others are related to general principles such as freedoms of religion, of citizenship and others. These paved the way to a solid relationship with the Copts in his country, and with Christians in General in the Arab Levant and asserting that they are equal citizens with their Muslim brethren, with equal rights and duties, not a minority living in a majority, but that they are all Muslim and Christian citizens in a constitutional, national, and civic state.
As active in the Muslim-Christian dialogue, we are sorry to see that such an event as the Pope’s meeting with the sheikh of Al-Azhar or the signature of the Document on Human Fraternity, did not take place in Lebanon, the country entrusted with the mission of coexistence in this East. The Pope should have made this declaration from a country with an indigenous Christian population, not like the UAE, where they are expatriates.
Nonetheless, for some time now, the Lebanese have not been faithful to Lebanon’s message for a long time, but have been wasting the peculiarity of this country in the wars and disputes, while the Lebanese government seeks to host the Academy of the World Dialogue between Cultures and Religions.
However, before hosting this center, it is necessary to seek to ensure civil peace between the Lebanese factions, reduce the current political tensions, protect Lebanon from external interference in its internal affairs and stop some Lebanese groups from using foreign powers to force their views on their compatriots.
Program and Action
The UAE has occupied the economic, financial and banking ranking where Lebanon has been for many years, but Lebanon has the advantage of coexistence. Therefore, The UAE initiative is to take this Lebanese characteristic and transfer it to the UAE, in a way that Lebanon has become almost devoid of all its peculiarities. Hovewer, the UAE is not to blame, but the Lebanese themselves, who did unfortunately contribute in this downturn.
We hope that this document will not be like other documents that we celebrate for a moment, to be soon forgotten. We hope that it will be a real program with the appropriate mechanism to be implemented. Some of this mechanism is included in the document and called international decision-makers, institutes, schools, universities, religious and social institutions, to use it and transform it from a rigid document to an effective one that is actually striving to fulfill world peace, which is most needed in our time.