The “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” signed on Monday afternoon in Abu Dhabi by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad el-Tayeb, is not only a milestone in relations between Christianity and Islam but also represents a message with a strong impact on the international scene. In the preface, after affirming that “Faith leads a believer to see in the other a brother or sister to be supported and loved”, this text is spoken of as a text “that has been given honest and serious thought”, which invites “all persons who have faith in God and faith in human fraternity to unite and work together”.
The document opens with a series of invocations: the Pope and the Grand Imam speak “in the name of God who has created all human beings equal in rights, duties and dignity”, “in the name of innocent human life that God has forbidden to kill”, “in the name of the poor”, “orphans, widows, refugees, exiles… and all victims of wars” and “persecution”. Al-Azhar, together with the Catholic Church, “declare the adoption of a culture of dialogue as the path; mutual cooperation as the code of conduct; reciprocal understanding as the method and standard”.
In the document, “we… call upon ourselves, upon the leaders of the world as well as the architects of international policy and world economy, to work strenuously to spread the culture of tolerance and of living together in peace; to intervene at the earliest opportunity to stop the shedding of innocent blood and bring an end to wars, conflicts, environmental decay and the moral and cultural decline that the world is presently experiencing”.
The two religious leaders ask all people of religion and culture, as well as the media, to rediscover and spread “the values of peace, justice, goodness, beauty, human fraternity and coexistence”. And they firmly affirm their belief “ that among the most important causes of the crises of the modern world are a desensitized human conscience, a distancing from religious values and a prevailing individualism accompanied by materialistic philosophies”.
While recognizing the positive steps taken by modern civilization, the declaration emphasizes the “moral deterioration that influences international action and a weakening of spiritual values and responsibility”, which leads many “to fall either into a vortex of atheistic, agnostic or religious extremism, or into blind and fanatic extremism.” Religious and national extremism, together with intolerance, have produced the signs of a “third world war being fought piecemeal”.
The Pope and the Grand Imam therefore state that “major political crises, situations of injustice and lack of equitable distribution of natural resources – which only a rich minority benefit from, to the detriment of the majority of the peoples of the earth – have generated, and continue to generate, vast numbers of poor, infirm and deceased persons. This leads to catastrophic crises that various countries have fallen victim to despite their natural resources and the resourcefulness of young people which characterize these nations. In the face of such crises that result in the deaths of millions of children – wasted away from poverty and hunger – there is an unacceptable silence”.
They affirm the fundamental importance of the family, as well as the importance “of awakening religious awareness”, especially in young people, “to confront tendencies that are individualistic, selfish, conflicting, and also address radicalism and blind extremism in all its forms and expressions.” The two leaders recall that the Creator “granted us the gift of life to protect it. It is a gift that no one has the right to take away, threaten or manipulate to suit oneself. Indeed, everyone must safeguard this gift of life from its beginning up to its natural end. We therefore condemn all those practices that are a threat to life such as genocide, acts of terrorism, forced displacement, human trafficking, abortion and euthanasia. We likewise condemn the policies that promote these practices.”
And the full text of the document can be found here.