A highlight of Pope Francis’ visit to Abu Dhabi recently, the first ever visit of a Catholic pope to the Arabian peninsula, was his participation in the “Global Conference for Human Fraternity” organized by UAE authorities. Apart from the two key figures at the event “ Pope Francis and Dr Ahmed Al Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al- Ahzar “ dozens of religious leaders and scholars of different religions brought the voices of faith to the conversation during two days of intense debate.
There were Christians of all denominations, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and Sikhs. There were even Bahai and Zoroastrian representatives giving the event a truly global and inclusive dimension.
Extracts from the Text of Pope Francis’s Address to Fraternity Conference Feb.2019
As-salÄmu alaykum! Peace be with you!
I give heartfelt thanks to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Doctor Ahmad Al-Tayyib, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, for their words. I am grateful to the Council of Elders for the meeting that we have just had at the Grand Mosque of Sheikh Zayed.
From your country, my thoughts turn to all the countries of this peninsula. To them I address my most cordial greetings, with friendship and esteem.
With a heart grateful to the Lord, in this eighth centenary of the meeting between Saint Francis of Assisi and Sultan al-Malik al KÄmil, I have welcomed the opportunity to come here as a believer thirsting for peace, as a brother seeking peace with the brethren. We are here to desire peace, to promote peace, to be instruments of peace.
The logo of this journey depicts a dove with an olive branch. It is an image that recalls the story “ present in different religious traditions “ of the primordial flood. According to the biblical account, in order to preserve humanity from destruction, God asked Noah to enter the ark along with his family. Today, we too in the name of God, in order to safeguard peace, need to enter together as one family into an ark which can sail the stormy seas of the world: the ark of fraternity.
The point of departure is the recognition that God is at the origin of the one human family. He who is the Creator of all things and of all persons wants us to live as brothers and sisters, dwelling in the common home of creation which he has given us. Fraternity is established here at the roots of our common humanity, as “a vocation contained in God’s plan of creation”. This tells us that all persons have equal dignity and that no one can be a master or slave of others.
We cannot honour the Creator without cherishing the sacredness of every person and of every human life: each person is equally precious in the eyes of God, who does not look upon the human family with a preferential gaze that excludes, but with a benevolent gaze that includes. Thus, to recognize the same rights for every human being is to glorify the name of God on earth. In the name of God the Creator, therefore, every form of violence must be condemned without hesitation, because we gravely profane God’s name when we use it to justify hatred and violence against a brother or sister. No violence can be justified in the name of religion.
The enemy of fraternity is an individualism which translates into the desire to affirm oneself and one’s own group above others. This danger threatens all aspects of life, even the highest innate prerogative of man, that is, the openness to the transcendent and to religious piety. True religious piety consists in loving God with all one’s heart and one’s neighbour as oneself. Religious behaviour, therefore, needs continually to be purified from the recurrent temptation to judge others as enemies and adversaries. Each belief system is called to overcome the divide between friends and enemies, in order to take up the perspective of heaven, which embraces persons without privilege or discrimination.
I wish to express appreciation for the commitment of this nation to tolerating and guaranteeing freedom of worship, to confronting extremism and hatred. Even as the fundamental freedom to profess one’s own beliefs is promoted “ this freedom being an intrinsic requirement for a human being’s self-realization “ we need to be vigilant lest religion be instrumentalized and deny itself by allowing violence and terrorism.