In the last Sunday, Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of the Al-Azhar University in Cairo Dr. Ahamed El-Tayyeb went to Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, to meet each other. Both of them received the invitation from the Crown Prince of the country to attend a meeting on the Inter-religious Dialogue.
The meeting was attended by 700 world religious leaders; among them there were 500 Muslim leaders, many Sunni, some Shi'ite and Bhai imams and then Jews, Hindu, Buddhist leaders and others. In this year 2019, UAE is celebrating "The Year of Tolerance" to foster among the citizens of the country more attitudes of respect and mutual acceptance among the different religious groups.
In the country there are many people who come from different parts of the world to work there and so it is very necessary to help them to meet and accept each other nevertheless of difference of creed, religion and sex. The government of the country does not leave it to a natural awareness but makes effort to create more awareness among their citizens with the help of some TV advertisement, group discussions and short-movie.
On the occasion of the meeting, the Declaration on "Human Fraternity for world peace and living together" was signed by His Holiness the Pope and the Grand Imam of the Al-Azhar University Dr Ahamed El-Tayyeb at the presence of the Crown Prince, the government and the members of the Muslim Elders and other religious leaders. In his speech the Grand Imam made the history of the document.
It has been many times that the Pope and the Grand Imam had met. As they became aware of the similarities of their thinking, analysis of the causes and the reasons of the world problems and of their respective religious groups, decided to write together and to sign this message to their communities.
"In the name of God and of everything stated thus far; Al-Azhar al-Sharif and the Muslims of the East and West, together with the Catholic Church and the Catholics of the East and West, 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".
The Grand Imam and the Pope speak in the name of Almighty, they are religious leaders, all the Muslims and Catholics in the world, taking into consideration the bad situation of our humanity because of injustice, wars, exploitation and the increasing economical differences between rich and poor.
They speak in the name of the victims of the war, poor, orphans and "in the name of the fraternity that embraces all human beings, unites them and renders them equal, justice and the persons of good will" They like to be leaders and be united with all people who works for the peace and the progress of humanity.
They adopt the dialogue as their way of work. Really the two leaders meet regularly and often share their joy, sorrows and difficulties in their leadership. Both of them are telling us that the declaration is the fruit of strict and deep cooperation between them and what they ask us to do they are already doing.
Another aspect is the mutual cooperation and reciprocal understanding. They are working together, they created a commission to writethe declaration. Their work is not an exception as in some countries like Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco there is a good understanding among Christians and Muslims and work together.
The two leaders see that the nowadays powerful individualism and greediness is the cancer that is destroying our society and the religious groups. People just criticize the thinking and behave of others, without trying to work togetherand do not accept the diversity of the real humanity and their religious diversity.
Everybody takes as good his own way of thinking and do not understand and criticize the others. In this way, many conflicts are in the society that makes difficult the social life of the people. The rich accumulates their wealth and do not share crumb of it.
According to the Declaration the problems of a religious group should be considered the problems of all religious groups. All the religious groups should work together for their solution. Fifteen days ago or so, in Mindanao, Philippines, on Sunday during the Catholic prayer (Holy Mass) in the church two bombs exploded, killing 23 people.
Last Sunday in many places of the country Christian leaders and Imams with their groups meet together for a procession on the streets saying that Muslim and Christians are together believers and as such they took the commitment to defend each other. Muslims and Christians will protect together the mosques and the churches in their places. I think that this is a good example of the brotherhood among the believers.
The Pope and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar ask us to work together in the field of education as a process to respect and accept each other, against the attitudes of hatred and violence. The education should bring progress among the people, and not violence misery and death.
The firm conviction that authentic teachings of religions invite us to remain rooted in the values of peace; to defend the values of mutual understanding, human fraternity and harmonious coexistence; to re-establish wisdom, justice and love. The Pope and the Grand Imam call to create a culture of understanding and peace in the world.
"We call upon intellectuals, philosophers, religious figures, artists, media professionals and men and women of culture in every part of the world, to rediscover the values of peace, justice, goodness, beauty, human fraternity and coexistence in order to confirm the importance of these values as anchors of salvation for all, and to promote them everywhere.
Al-Azhar and the Catholic Church ask that this Document become the object of research and reflection in all schools, universities and institutes of formation, thus helping to educate new generations to bring goodness and peace to others, and to be defenders everywhere of the rights of the oppressed and of the least of our brothers and sisters.
I think it is a historical document as the two major religious groups in the world come together to promote peace and progress in the name of the Almighty, the Lord of life, peace, progress and prosperity, they give importance to thousands and thousands of people who work for the benefit of human beings. This way of thinking is not new, as it started in the world meetings of the religious leaders in Assisi (1986). It is a further step toward peace and harmony. May the Almighty be with us in this program.
The writer is the Director of Inter-religious Dialogue Center, Khulna.
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