Human Rights

Sheikh al-Azhar and Pope sign historic document on countering extremism

Middle East

The Pope and Grand Imam of al-Azhar met in the UAE capital to discuss dialogue between religions

In his first papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula, Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church, met with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayeb, to discuss relations between the world’s two great faiths.

Opening a historic conference earlier this week – the “Conference of Fraternity” – the two figures discussed the brotherly relations between the two faiths and committed to promoting tolerance and coexistence, not only between Islam and Christianity, but throughout the whole world.

“War is misery and weapons lead to death,” said Pope Francis. “Human brotherhood makes us, the representatives of religions, at the front of the need to prohibit any difference in stances regarding war and its harmful consequences.”

“The divine religions are innocent of all the movements and armed groups, which are newly referred to by terrorism, no matter what religion it was and no matter what its doctrine, ideology, or victims were,” said Sheikh al-Azhar.

Following the conference, the two figures signed a historic document jointly committing to fight extremism. Among the key statutes of the agreement is the declaration that “religions must never incite war, hateful attitudes, hostility and extremism, nor must they incite violence or the shedding of blood”.

The conference marked the end of the Pope’s three-day visit to the UAE after arriving on Sunday evening, welcomed at the Presidential Palace the following day.

A number of figures from the three abrahamic faiths, as well as other religious and political leaders, gathered in the UAE to mark the UAE’s ‘Year of Tolerance’.

Among those in attendance included Julio Murray, the bishop of the diocese of Panama and the archbishop of the church in Central America, Grand Mufti Mustafa Ceric based in Bosnia, and reverend George al-Kopti of the Anglican Church in Amman.

The hope is that this conference will facilitate further inter-religious exchanges and dialogues, and signals that at their core, these religions share the desire to live in harmony and peaceful coexistence with each other.

Image: Luca Zennaro/EPA