x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Scholars stress shared values at capital forum

Emirates cited as perfect example of how different faiths should respect others' beliefs.

Dr Farooq Hamadah, a religious adviser to the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince, participates in an interfaith discussion at Zayed University.
Dr Farooq Hamadah, a religious adviser to the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince, participates in an interfaith discussion at Zayed University.

ABU DHABI // Christian and Muslim scholars were at pains to emphasise the shared focus of their religions on living by ethical principles at an interfaith forum held yesterday. Representatives of both communities spoke at the forum hosted by Zayed University in the capital. They noted the prophets of both faiths were blessed by special traits and merits.

"Ethics and good behaviour are spread by all the prophets," said Dr Farooq Hamadah, the religious adviser to Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. "Each prophet is a building block and they came one after the other, like bricks atop one another, to form a complete house that incorporates all their values and characteristics. Each prophet relies on the previous prophets that came before him to add to his message, but not cancel it out."

Both he and his counterpart, the Reverend Esam Barsoum of the Anglican Church in Abu Dhabi, said believing in God and living according to religious law was not sufficient without common human decency. Reverend Barsoum also stressed that a person is not tied to God solely through reverence or dogma. "Our faith and our belief in God and His religion can only count if it is reflected in the way we live our lives," he said.

"A pure relationship with God has to come hand in hand with a pure relationship with people around us, and the ties that bind us to humanity through good principles and values." Both scholars said some prophets were possessed of their own merits and were special advocates for qualities such as truthfulness, or respecting one's parents, or neighbourly love, or unselfishness. The Bible brings forth many human principles to make one a better Christian, said Reverend Barsoum, such as love of mankind, forgiveness and a giving nature.

"One cannot claim to be religious without being selfless, without loving your friend and your enemy and accepting both, without giving of yourself," he said. "These are the foundations of human values and are messages spread by all the prophets. If you are negligent with your fellow human being you cannot have a real relationship with God." Dr Hamadah said the UAE was a perfect example of a conglomerate of peoples, nations and religions. Showing acceptance to all and exhibiting understanding and acceptance of different cultures is a very important shared value.

"The shared values between our prophets is a very important subject today and its importance increases daily due to the mixture of people and religions from all over the world interacting and living together, cancelling out distances and borders," he said. Had that subject been made a priority some 50 years ago, most of the world's tragedies, wars and problems could have been avoided, Dr Hamadah said.

"You cannot avoid the need to understand religion and understand the common messages of our prophets," he said. @Email:hkhalaf@thenational.ae