AN HISTORIC CHARTER

AN HISTORIC CHARTER

The visit of His Holiness Pope Francis to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was not just a visit, it was history in the making. As the first visit of any Pope to the Arabian Peninsula, it represented a turning point in the gridlock of animosity between Muslims and Christians that extremists have forced upon us in areas like Egypt, Iraq and Syria. His Holiness’ Papal Mass attended by 130,000 people in Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi was not just a Mass, it was a commitment by both Muslims and Christians to repudiate the idea that the relationship between the two religions is a zero-sum game. As scenes of the event were broadcast on the screens inside and outside the stadium, as well as around the world, it was difficult to miss the great symbolism of the event: celebrating tolerance, co-existence and human brotherhood is our way towards preventing the escalation of religiously-motivated violence.

The Papal visit to the UAE was not merely a state visit, it has started a global dialogue between religions, cultures, and civilizations. As the visit was by any measure an historic landmark, the signing of the “Human Fraternity Document” is possibly its most significant outcome. The Document is a charter dedicated to the idea of building a global vision for the future where people of all religions and nationalities can live based on mutual respect by fostering values of tolerance and coexistence. This Charter is unique because it was signed by Pope Francis, the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar Ahmed El-Tayeb who is the highest spiritual authority among Sunni Muslims as well as H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, Vice President of the UAE and H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. This show of commitment by religious and political authorities makes it a commitment from a convergence of faith and policy to achieve its objectives. The document was conceived by The Muslim Council of Elders in Abu Dhabi and was titled “A Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” which makes it a true commitment from the representatives of different Islamic sects, Sunni, Shiite, Sufis and others to the pledge of respect for other religions. One of the most important principles in this Human Fraternity Document is that it focuses on the idea of equality in rights and duties; it denounces killing for any reason on the basis that all religions prohibit such an act. In order to show the essence of religions, the document also focuses on the principle of charity by helping the poor, the needy and minorities because it is an obligation on every capable human being to help the less fortunate.

The document also pays homage to the “orphans, widows, refugees and those exiled from their homes and their countries, all victims of wars, persecution and injustice, the weak, those who live in fear, prisoners of war and those tortured in any part of the world, without distinction, also people who have lost their security, peace, and the possibility of living together, becoming victims of destruction, calamity and war.” It aims to acquire a unique perspective in terms of coexistence and human brotherhood and to energize those who wish to contribute in an effort to end the suffering on this earth. In short, it focuses on the values and principles that cut across all faiths. This is not just a document denouncing terrorism, extremism and fanaticism, it is also a universal plea against all the root causes of extremism and terrorism spearheaded by religious scholars. The aim is to work alongside policymakers, intellectuals, philosophers, artists, media and innovative people to spread tolerance, coexistence, and peace. This effort is not only the responsibility of religious leaders, but also requires commitment from global leaders to work together to create a lifeline for humankind against threats from all aspects of life across the globe. The document has outlined the importance of the family and its role, in addition to how aspects of family life have disappeared from the fabric of peaceful society. It claims, “to attack the institution of the family, to regard it with contempt or to doubt its important role, is one of the most threatening evils of our era.” It calls for a return to the right path through “the importance of awakening religious awareness and the need to revive this awareness in the hearts of new generations through sound education and an adherence to moral values and upright religious teachings. In this way we can confront tendencies that are individualistic, selfish, conflicting, and also address radicalism and blind extremism in all its forms and expressions.” This document, signed in Abu Dhabi, is recognised as a global Charter. It includes provisions for safeguarding the rights of children, women and vulnerable groups. The UAE has taken the first step in a very long and arduous journey. Leaders in Europe and across the world should join in signing this document and showing the same commitment for dialogue between faiths among their peoples. 


H.E. Amal Al Haddabi is the Founder and Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Bussola Institute