Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp – Abu Dhabi
One year after Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar signed the Document on Human Fraternity, members of the Higher Committee implementing that document gathered in Abu Dhabi. On Monday, they met with the press.
Pope Francis leads by example
Judge Mohamed Abdel Salam, former adviser to the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar and Secretary of the Higher Committee, opened the floor. He underlined that the Document on Human Fraternity is a “source of inspiration for humanity all over the world”. The Higher Committee itself, he said, is independent, even though the formation of the committee is backed by Pope Francis, the Grand Imam and Abu Dhabi’s Sheik Mohamed Bin Zayed. The achievement of human fraternity needs the support of decision makers and religious leaders, as well as the media, he said. He cited a recent event involving Pope Francis as a concrete example of how the Document can be implemented: when the Pope made known his desire to welcome several refugee families, he made no distinction based on religion.
Human Fraternity is God’s will
Msgr. Yoannis Gaid, said that young people have an important role in achieving the goals of the Document on Human Fraternity. He also said that the Document itself is rooted in God’s will because all believers find their orgin in God. It is God who gathers all of humanity into one family. Therefore, members of all religions are brothers and sisters. It is young people especially who can be fully engaged in transforming the ideals contained in the Document into tangible realities, he said.
World is a small village
Prof. Mohamed Hussein El-Mahrassawy, President of Al-Azhar University, recalled how the signers of the Document come from Europe and Africa, and that it was signed in Asia. “The world is now a small village”, he said. The Document on Human Fraternity is timely because it provides a synthesis of how the world can live together in peaceful co-existence. The University of Al-Azhar has already begun to teach the Document on Human Fraternity and will be undertaking other initiatives to promote the values contained in it.
Foundational ethical document
Irina Bokova, former Director-General of UNESCO, and the latest person to join the Higher Committee, was present for the signing of the Document one year ago. She said that “it is important to see the Document as a foundational ethical document of our time”. Young people can find answers in this Document, she continued, and it is in harmony with the fourth point of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals which targets education.
Moving from “me” to “we”
Lastly Rabbi Bruce Lustig, Senior Rabbi at the Washington Hebrew Congregation, said that the Document contains the most difficult things that the world needs. That Document, he emphasized, is in harmony with all of the world’s religions. “We are one family, living in one home”, he said. Therefore, each person owes every other person both respect and dignity, making us responsible for each other. It calls everyone, he said, “to move from ‘me’ to ‘we’. With 70 million refugees in the world, it is good to remember that we are now “inextricably linked with each other”. The Document asks us to deal with the reality of migration, both in terms of understanding citizenship differently, and in terms of providing an education to those who are displaced.
Visit to the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi
The Higher Committee paid a visit to His Highness, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Monday afternoon and informed him of the initiatives that they are about to set in motion. The Sheikh encouraged the Committee and assured them of his support so that the Document might become a concrete reality. He also told the members of the Committee that they cannot imagine the importance of what they are doing for future generations.
One of the members of the Committee said the Sheikh was very cordial during the meeting and accompanied the group as they left. This is a gesture that is reserved to very high personages and to groups who have the Sheikh's complete support, he said.