Judge Abdelsalam: Transforming Human Fraternity from words into action
By Francesca Merlo & Alessandro Di Bussolo
Concluding celebrations for the 2nd International Day of Human Fraternity in Dubai, Judge Mohamed Abdelsalam, Secretary-General of the Higher Committee on Human Fraternity, spoke to Vatican Radio's Francesca Merlo about the Committee's work and how it is nurtured by members of different faiths striving to build a future of solidarity, coexistence, and mutual respect.
Q: The International Day of Human Fraternity was recently celebrated in the whole world, but especially in Dubai. Can you give us a first evaluation of these 4th of February celebrations?
The International Day of Human Fraternity was celebrated worldwide but was in a very special way here in Expo Dubai, because this place has become a beacon of coexistence, mutual understanding and also a practical example for living human fraternity values. We celebrate these values and the culture of Human Fraternity. [On Friday], the whole world documented this great example put forward by His Holiness Pope Francis and His Eminence the Grand Imam of Al Azhar: from this country to the whole world and to all people around the world. We have celebrated this international day in different manners and different ways, each country and each organization in accordance with its view of this Human Fraternity. I can tell you that Expo is a place where more than 190 countries around the world get together in a spirit of coexistence, mutual understanding and exchange of ideas culture. It is also an exchange of economic and trade interests. The main message is to send this inspiration and disseminate it to people from all walks of life: that getting together is important, that we are one family and that the only way we have for the future, that will ensure a brighter and more peaceful one, is to show solidarity, coexistence and respect for each other.
Q: Some of the people who are instrumental in passing on this message which you speak of are the members of the Higher Committee on Human Fraternity. What exactly is their work and which are the concrete initiatives in order for them to make Human Fraternity a concrete concept?
Let me first say that the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity is composed as one of the key and first initiatives to actualize the values and the principles in the shrine of the Document on Human Fraternity: this historic declaration, co-signed by His Holiness Pope Francis and His Eminence the Grand Imam of Al Azhar. The members of the High Committee on Human Fraternity come from different walks of life. They are experienced in different fields of education, of culture, of faith backgrounds, and also of different schools of thought. But all of them have come together and agreed on the importance of this message of Human Fraternity and that it ensures a safe path forward to build a better world for the next generations.
Human Fraternity is not a magic wand by which we can change the whole world overnight. It is a culture and a set of values that we try to disseminate. We try to encourage people from different backgrounds to believe and to live in their daily lives. Eventually, we aim to create a tolerant environment, one which features peaceful coexistence, a culture of shared love, the sharing of pains and joys, and also the sharing other worldly interests. That’s why we have launched a number of initiatives to actualize this and translate this into actions in different societies. One of the key areas we work on is education, empowerment of youth, empowerment of women, protection of human rights- but in a different manner because we approach human rights and try to promote them to be a self-driven act from every person and every human because they all face traditions promoting the importance of human rights and human dignity. But in our world, we need each person to believe in the importance of human rights and these values to ensure we have a more peaceful world for the next generations.
Q: At the end of the addresses on the event of the 4th of February, you signed a Memorandum along with a representative from the Ministry of Tolerance and Coexistence. Could you tell us a little bit more about the Document that was signed on the 4th of February this year?
In fact, the Higher Committee’s work is based on a very important principle and maxim, which is building partnerships and expanding partnerships with other organizations. Whether they be governmental or not, all organizations that share the same value and message. In our first meeting with Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, as members of the Higher Committee, we received this very important advice: namely, the two religious leaders said “don’t work alone, don’t work in isolation, reach your hands to other organizations to other organizations and other partners to reach all values of coexistence and build together a better world”. So we have started to practice this advice and extend our hands to full partnerships with other organizations. I would like to clarify that our cooperation with the ministry of tolerance is not new. We have been working together since the establishment and the creation of the Higher Committee, but on this special day (4 February), we wanted to document and institutionalize this form of partnership and close cooperation because His Highness Sheikh Al Nehyan is himself a man of tolerance and of peace, and also the country, the UAE is a country which sponsors and supports mutual and harmonious coexistence an tolerance, and that is why we wanted to have his document: in order to encourage those who will come after us to continue this message and this cooperation and to work as institutions rather than individuals or persons.
The aim of this Document is to launch and lead joint initiatives and to launch a research project as well as to participate and intensify our contributions to the international forums and the platforms in order to disseminate the message of tolerance and the message of Human Fraternity wider and wider. The celebrations on International Day of Human Fraternity featured messages and statements from world leaders and faiths. Many participated in this day, and I would like to quote one statement from Pope Francis’ message when he said Human Fraternity: brothers and sisters or everything will collapse. This is a very enlightening statement that emphasizes the need and importance of this work. Also His Eminence the Grand Imam of Al Azhar said all faiths and religions share this value of ending wars and living in peace and this is the only path all humans should walk together.
We have also received participations from US President Joe Biden, the UN, as well as Jewish, Christian, Buddhist and Hindu communities around the world. All these messages affirm that Human Fraternity is a shared culture and is the fundamental tradition of humankind, but perhaps the conflicts and wars we have here sometimes distract the people from the instinct of human nature, and that is why we are working together to remind all people around the world of this fundamental value, of each human to have a more peaceful and more stable society in the future.
Q: Your Excellency, you mention the importance of seeking help and partnership in other institutions. How can that be reflected in the concept of Human Fraternity creating inclusive societies, which is a theme you introduced during your address of the 4 of February celebrations?
This is a very important question, I would like to thank you very much for raising it. It is a challenge, one which we can only overcome through education and culture. Education will create a new generation that will voluntarily carry out this message, and culture will make everyone in the society praise these values and start to lead them. We get inspired daily by the continued messages and words of Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, which calls for a sense and promotion of shared responsibility in society between every person in society. This is because, if we have this true sense of responsibility towards others, towards our families and the whole community in which we live, we will be able to overcome many challenges and solve many problems.
I’ll give you one example: the climate change crisis we are suffering and whose consequences we are seeing, is an outcome and direct result of not carrying out this responsibility towards the environment in which we live – a responsibility which is based on trust and an asset for future generations and that will come after us. So, we reaffirm our call for all political leaders, religious, and governments, as well as education, culture and arts officials and leaders of these areas and situations to try to revive and breathe a new life through this sense of shared responsibilities through these institutions. And, we also want to promote Human Fraternity through action before words.
At the end of this interview, I would like to express my deepest gratitude on behalf of myself and on behalf of all members of the Higher Committee to Pope Francis for the fact that he has presented a real and unique example to be a man of peace, a man who is of true voice for bringing all people from different walks of life to give and to feel that they are all members of the same human family. I would like to also express my deepest thanks and gratitude to the Grand Imam of Al Azhar for his support and for the fact that this man is always close to the poor and suffering in our societies and has always been a voice, calling for the support of refugees and the marginalized and calling on the international community to show real solidarity towards those suffering categories. I would like also to express genuine and deep gratitude to His Highness Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, because he is simply an extraordinary leader. He is a man who really believes in the importance of goodness and lives goodness for all people around him and everywhere in the world. He has been supporting the work and initiatives of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity to transform this document into a lived reality, not only here but everywhere in the world.
We would like to also affirm the fact that we have been witnessing that His Highness has been living that values of peaceful coexistence and human fraternity values. He embodies them both at the personal and political levels - well beyond his role as a leader I would like to also thank all lovers of peace and of Human Fraternity and reaffirm that we will continue to cooperate with all organizations and institutions and civil society organizations for achieving only one path: that of Human Fraternity because it is the assured path for sustainable peace