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Papal call for human fraternity gains momentum

Despite a new war, the struggle for peaceful coexistence is drawing inspiration from the historic Abu Dhabi document

Papal call for human fraternity gains momentum

Mediterranean mayors and bishops pose for a photo at Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy, on Feb. 26. (Photo: Cristian Gennari/Italian Episcopal Conference/AFP)

Published: March 04, 2022 03:50 AM GMT

Updated: March 21, 2022 04:52 AM GMT

The world has started taking note of the Document on Human Fraternity and is drawing inspiration from it, giving a shot in the arm to troubled Christian-Muslim ties worldwide.

In the Italian city of Florence, 60 Catholic bishops and 65 Christian, Muslim and Jewish mayors met last month and signed a significant document.

They had taken inspiration from the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, signed in Abu Dhabi by Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, grand imam of al-Azhar, on Feb. 4, 2019.

"The comforting difference is that in Abu Dhabi the document on fraternity was signed by two ‘champions,’ while the signatures of the Florence Charter came from 130 people with recognized public functions,” Jesuit Bishop Paolo Bizzeti, apostolic vicar of Anatolia, observed at the meeting held in the capital of the Tuscany region.

The unprecedented meeting from Feb. 23-27 was held to confirm the role of the Mediterranean Sea as a "frontier of peace."

Despite a new war raging in Ukraine for the past week, the struggle for peace and peaceful coexistence is drawing inspiration from the historic Abu Dhabi document, which begins by affirming that "faith leads a believer to see in the other a brother or sister to be supported and loved.”

Pisar, daughter of an Auschwitz survivor who lost his entire family in the concentration camps, said she learned from her father that enemies are not hereditary

While the Russian army is advancing into Ukraine’s capital and NATO-led forces are arming the Eastern European nation to defend itself, in Abu Dhabi the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity 2022 was conferred on the Haitian Foundation for Liberty and Knowledge (Fokal) and the king and queen of Jordan in recognition of their efforts to promote human fraternity.

King Abdullah was chosen for the Zayed award, granted by the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity (HCHF) for promoting interfaith harmony in the Middle East, Queen Rania was honored for her advocacy of refugee rights and Fokal contributed to finding solutions to the humanitarian crises in Haiti.

Dr. Leah Pisar, a member of the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity 2022 judging committee, said human fraternity “is an absolutely universal principle that transcends religion and transcends any kind of differences.”

Pisar, daughter of an Auschwitz survivor who lost his entire family in the concentration camps, said she learned from her father that enemies are not hereditary.

Previous winners Antonio Guterres, the UN chief, and Latifa Ibn Ziaten, a Moroccan-French activist against religious extremism, had donated their US$1 million prize money to charity.

Participating in the run-up to the award ceremony, the 2011 Nobel Peace laureate Leymah Gbowee observed that the dimension of respect is essential to living out human fraternity.

During the 13 years of war in Liberia, Gbowee was instrumental in bringing together Christian and Muslim women on a common platform to carry out non-violent protests and prayer meetings.

This year’s award was announced at a time when interfaith collaboration and transnational cooperation have taken a beating due to extremism and the rise of nationalism.

According to Mohamed Abdelsalam, one of the award’s judges, “this year’s Zayed Award for Human Fraternity will be a spotlight of hope.”

Asia and Africa are reeling under social unrest, which has no end in sight in the near future.

The peace pact that holds Bosnia and Herzegovina together is under threat from a resurgence in Serb nationalism.

North Macedonia is engaged in a dispute with Bulgaria over language and ethnic minorities which threatens the country’s integration into the European Union.

Hungary and Poland have placed their own nationalist interests as priorities.

Pope Francis has placed great emphasis on Christian-Muslim fraternity during his pontificate since 2013

The European Union (EU) is desperately in need of peace as the 27-member trade bloc is directly affected by Russia’s invasion attempt of Ukraine, which threatens the peaceful coexistence of several nations.

With the aim to advance human fraternity on a global scale, EU ambassadors and representatives of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) recently met with the HCHF to learn more about the Document on Human Fraternity and its mission.

The EU prioritizes combating the climate crisis and empowering youth this year as 2022 has been declared the European Year of Youth, said Andrea Matteo Fontana, EU ambassador to the UAE.

Upcoming human fraternity initiatives by the HCHF include the Human Fraternity Youth Summit and the Human Fraternity Youth Majilis, which align perfectly with the European Year of Youth.

The meeting between EU ambassadors and the HCHF took place after the HCHF in association with the EU and the UAE Federal Youth Authority co-hosted the Human Fraternity Youth Majilis at EXPO 2020 Dubai.

Pope Francis has placed great emphasis on Christian-Muslim fraternity during his pontificate since 2013. The supreme pontiff on Feb. 28 met the rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris as France is one of the major EU nations plagued by increasing Islamophobia.

Biden attended a ceremony in which officials from al-Azhar and the Vatican, religious leaders and world luminaries took part

After meeting Pope Francis, rector Chems-Eddine Hafiz invited Muslims in France to pray for peace in Ukraine.

On the pope’s initiative, the Grand Mosque of Paris will invite Muslims to pray on March 4 for an end to the war in Ukraine. Pope Francis had asked people around the world to fast for peace in Ukraine on March 2, Ash Wednesday.

To reaffirm their commitment to the Document on Human Fraternity, a delegation from the Archdiocese of Sydney and Australian Catholic University met with leaders of Sydney’s Muslim community at Al-Faisal College, Auburn, on Feb. 17.

In 2018, Cardinal Miguel Ayuso, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, visited Al-Faisal College. Cardinal Ayuso is a renowned historian of Islam.

On the International Day of Human Fraternity on Feb. 4, which was established following the Abu Dhabi document, United States President Joe Biden urged all countries to collaborate, stating that global concerns are “too vast for any one nation or group of people to overcome.”

Biden attended a ceremony in which officials from al-Azhar and the Vatican, religious leaders and world luminaries took part.

In a world armed with some 15,000 nuclear weapons and other lethal robotic weapons, human fraternity and peaceful cohabitation are threatened every moment of every day. Maybe the Document on Human Fraternity has some solutions.

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