By Sr. Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp, New York
The New York City Public Library was the site of A Celebration of Human Fraternity on Friday. This is the first public event in which the members of the Higher Committee formed to implement the Document on Human Fraternity took part together. That historic document was signed in February 2019 by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayeb, during the Year of Tolerance.
Hundreds of people gathered from a variety of faith traditions. Many of them feel akin to the values proposed in the Document. The Rev. Dr. T. Kenjitsu Nakagaki calls himself a Peace Ambassador. He is interested in knowing why the term “human fraternity” is being used and wanted to make sure that the Buddhist tradition was represented at the Celebration. Deacon Mike and his wife Ruth explained that the company that Mike works for is working on the design and strategy of the Abrahamic Family House to be unveiled at the end of the event. Eban Heath is an artist and sculptor who has done work in the Gulf. He feels attracted to the work the Committee is doing because his own art, along with a passion for bringing words to life, represents culture and shows what can happen when different cultures “begin to dance together”.
Time for positive proposals
Committee President, Cardinal-Elect Miguel Ayuso, expressed that the Holy See has done so much to counteract evil. Now, he said, it is time “to propose in a positive way that the human family can live fraternally together”. Being on the Committee is a culmination of what has been his life work: “creating dialogue in order to overcome fear in hearts and souls”, he said.
Healing a fractured world
Newly added to the Committee, Rabbi Bruce Lustig spoke about the importance of the Document and the Committee who will be actualizing it. It was incredible, he said, to see two world religious leaders sign a document which is a watershed in bringing Jews, Christians and Muslims together. He added that the members of the Committee are dedicated to bring healing to a fractured world.
Greatest declaration signed in recent history
His Excellency Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak is also a member of the Committee, represented the United Arab Emirates. He commented on the fact that in a world where so much divides, the UAE is committed to uniting. As a beacon of light, the UAE wants to shed light in a dark world and has taken a stand through bringing the Document on Human Fraternity to the light. That declaration, he said, “is the greatest signed in recent days”.
Three houses of worship, one foundation
Sir David Adjaye Obe presented the architectural plans for the Abrahamic Family House. This will be the first concrete implementation of the Document on Human Fraternity. Plans to build a church, a mosque and a synagogue in Abu Dhabi are already under way, he said. Three different houses of worship will be united with a single foundation around a garden—an image that has important significance in each of the world’s three major religions. These three places of worship will be contemporary in their design while remaining faithful to the narrative of each religion, Sr David explained.
As promised, the evening ended with the unveiling of a model of the Abrahamic Family House. The spirit of human fraternity that it is meant to inspire, however, is already at work among the guests who left the event enriched by the contact they made with other people from different cultural and religious backgrounds.