By Vatican News
In the early hours of Thursday morning, a plane loaded with 50 tons of humanitarian aid for the Peruvian Amazon region took off from Abu Dhabi Airport in the United Arab Emirates.
The containers will land in Lima and then be transported, by land, to Iquitos, a city of 400,000 inhabitants on the banks of the Amazon river in the midst of the rainforest.
The aid reaches the Amazon as Covid-19 infections rise throughout Latin America putting millions of vulnerable people at risk.
Vatican and UAE collaboration
This delivery is the fruit of a collaboration between the UAE and the Gravissimum Educationis Pontifical Foundation. It contains materials to contain the spread of the pandemic, medical oxygen and food that will be received and distributed by local Churches to health and educational facilities and families in need.
Monsignor Guy-Réal Thivierge is the Secretary-General of the Gravissimum Educationis Foundation. He told Vatican News that the initiative springs from the collaboration between the Holy See and the UAE in the wake of the Pope’s historic visit to Abu Dhabi in 2019.
Msgr. Thivierge explained that the initiative of solidarity and collaboration has its seeds in the context of Pope Francis’s to the UAE, and in the “wonderful document on Human Fraternity” signed on that occasion.
The landmark document signed by the Pope and by Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, on 4 February 2019, in the words of Pope Francis, writes “a new page in the dialogue between religions and people of goodwill” focusing on how different faiths can live peaceably in the same world, in a spirit of universal kinship.
Thivierge said that after the Pope’s visit to Abu Dhabi, the Gravissimum Foundation he heads began to collaborate and exchange ideas with authorities in the UAE and in particular with the Minister of Education.
The coronavirus pandemic thwarted a Seminar that was in the pipelines, so he said it was decided to put into place “a specific project of aid and help within the context of Covid-19.”
Learning to work together
“This project is one of concrete aid to the Amazon, but it is also a project in which Christians and Muslims are learning to work together, to serve together, and to build a new world together, “he said.
He explained that the parties aim to do so not through an exclusively intellectual perspective (which however is also very important), “but also from a very concrete perspective in which we have to share, and agree and collaborate in a very, very concrete way.”
“So this is the originality of the project,” Thivierge explained adding that at the heart of it is the fact that emergency aid is being brought to Peru, bearing in mind that there are other dimensions to be developed as well.
For instance, he said, the formation of professors and the need to tackle basic problems in local schools and universities.
Basically, he added, “We are trying to stimulate a new way of working from an interreligious perspective,” never forgetting that we are involved in education:
“The objective is not interreligious dialogue as such, more concretely it is how we can work together and build something together, being Christians and Muslims and other religious congregations. “