By Vatican News staff writer
Pope Francis marked the first-ever International Day of Human Fraternity on Thursday, in a virtual event hosted by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi, with the participation of the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, and other personalities.
During the occasion, the Holy Father, in words prepared for the occasion, expressed his gratitude to those who had contributed to the promotion of fraternity in spite of the challenges.
“Sisters and brothers - that is the word,” the Pope said. “Sisters and brothers to affirm fraternity in a special way to you, my brother, my friend, my companion of challenges and risks in the struggle for fraternity.”
The Pope offered special recognition to the Grand Imam, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, for his testimony and collaboration in writing the document presented two years ago. Pope Francis also expressed his gratitude to the Crown Prince of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, for his belief in the project, and Judge Abdel Salam for his active participation in its advancement.
“Thank you all for committing to fraternity,” Pope Francis said, “because today fraternity is the new frontier of humanity. Either we are brothers, or we destroy each other.”
Not a time for indifference
Pope Francis went on to insist that “today, there is no time for indifference” and “we cannot wash our hands” of the present situation with distance, disregard and contempt. He affirmed that we are either brothers and sisters, “or everything falls apart,” adding that this is the frontier on which we have to build - “the challenge of our century and the challenge of our times.”
Fraternity, the Pope continued, “means an outstretched hand. Fraternity means respect. Fraternity means listening with an open heart. Fraternity means firmness in one’s own convictions” because “there is no true fraternity if one’s convictions are negotiated.”
Brothers and sisters despite differences
Pope Francis also emphasized that despite differences in cultures and traditions, we are brothers and sisters, "born of the same Father.” In this regard, fraternity must be built, not by negotiation, but through respect for our different cultures and traditions.
“It is the moment of listening. It is the moment of sincere acceptance. It is the moment of certainty that a world without brothers is a world of enemies,” the Pope said.
He further underscored that “we cannot say we are either brothers or not brothers,” stressing rather that “we are either brothers or enemies” because indifference is “a very subtle form of enmity.”
“We do not need to be at war to be enemies, disregarding each other is enough,” the Pope said, adding that it is time to stop the attitude of looking the other way and ignoring others as if they did not exist.
2021 Zayed Award for Human Fraternity
A part of the celebrations for the International Day of Human Fraternity is the presentation of the 2021 Zayed Award for Human Fraternity to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, and Moroccan-French activist, Latifa Ibn Ziaten.
Addressing the UN Secretary-General, Pope Francis congratulated him for the award and expressed gratitude for his efforts towards promoting peace “that will only be achieved with a fraternal heart.”
Directing his attention towards the second 2021 Zayed Award honoree, Latifa Ibn Ziaten, the Pope acknowledged her inspiring testimony of painfully losing a child yet channeling her pain towards fostering love and fraternity.
“Yes, sister, your words are not hearsay or a conventional ‘we are all brothers’: they are a conviction. A conviction embodied in pain, in your wounds,” the Pope said.
“Thank you for your testimony," said Pope Francis. "And thank you for being the mother of your son, of so many boys and girls, for being the mother today of this humanity that is listening to you and learns from you: either the path of fraternity, of brotherhood, or we lose everything.”