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Pope Francis in UAE: Disarm human hearts

Allan Jacob (with Pope in UAE)
Filed on February 5, 2019 | Last updated on February 9, 2019 at 08.50 pm
Pope Francis and Al Azhar Grand Imam Dr Ahmed El Tayeb greeting each other as they exchange the Abu Dhabi Document during the Human Fraternity Meeting at the Founderís Memorial. ó AFP
Pope Francis and Al Azhar Grand Imam Dr Ahmed El Tayeb greeting each other as they exchange the Abu Dhabi Document during the Human Fraternity Meeting at the Founder's Memorial. - AFP

Pope Francis came out strongly against violence in the name of religion.

Two of the world's largest religions, Islam and Christianity, have broken the barriers that bound them and sealed a pact to denounce violence and extremism while adopting a culture of dialogue to resolve differences.

And the UAE made it happen with the path-breaking visit by Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church; and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Dr Ahmed El Tayyeb.

"We resolutely declare that religions must never incite war, hateful attitudes, hostility and extremism, nor must they incite violence or the shedding of blood," the 16-page document signed by the two religious leaders said.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai; His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces; ministers; other dignitaries; and religious leaders witnessed the historic signing ceremony at the Founder's Memorial in the capital on Monday.

For Pope Francis, it was a cry for justice, a call for fraternity and an end to human misery. At the core, it was also a plea to 'demilitarise the human heart' and start talking about differences.

"We will either build the future together or there will be no future," said the pope in his speech. Speaking at the event, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid said: "Today we celebrate the signing of the Human Fraternity Document in the UAE. It is also a pleasure to announce the inaugural Human Fraternity Award and present it to Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar for their efforts to spread international peace."

Pope Francis came out strongly against violence in the name of religion. He spoke out against aggressive expansionist policies and the new arms race.†

The pontiff was given a ceremonial reception at the Presidential Palace on Monday by the Rulers who held talks on peace and tolerance with the Vatican delegation.

The pope was profound but direct in his speech. "We gravely profane God's name when we use it to justify hatred and violence against a brother or a sister. No violence can be justified in the name of religion." He spoke about loving one's neighbour as oneself.

He switched from the spiritual to the philosophical, but the message was clearly above love, family, respect and mutual understanding. While putting forth a practical approach to solving problems, he also envisioned a spiritual side to inter-religion dialogue.

"The first thing we have to do is pray for one another: we are brothers and sisters." It helps in the spirit of reconciliation and towards peace. He said religion should stand on the side of the poor and not abandon them.

The 83-year old pope saw beauty in the desert surrounding the UAE and how the country had transformed itself. "This country, in which sand and skyscrapers meet, continues to be an important crossroads between the East and the West, between the North and the South of the planet: a place of development."

He warned against individualism and indifference to societies, and also about fake news and the dangers it posed to communities and the youth.

The Imam of Al Azhar called on Muslims in the Middle East to "embrace" local Christian communities. "Embrace your brothers the Christian citizens everywhere, for they are our partners in our nation," he said.

"You are part of this nation. You are citizens, you are not a minority. You are citizens with full rights and responsibilities."

allan@khaleejtimes.com


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