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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Al Azhar's imam meets pope, vows to fight terrorism

The grand imam said after meeting with the pope that Islam was facing 'a war against itself', and underscored that Muslims too were 'victims of terrorism'

Pope Francis exchanges gifts with Grand Imam of Al Azhar Ahmed Al Tayeb during a private audience at the Vatican November 7, 2017. Osservatore Romano / Reuters
Pope Francis exchanges gifts with Grand Imam of Al Azhar Ahmed Al Tayeb during a private audience at the Vatican November 7, 2017. Osservatore Romano / Reuters

The grand imam of Egypt's famed Al Azhar institution Ahmed Al Tayeb, one of the Muslim world's leading religious authorities, on Tuesday met Pope Francis and pledged greater co-operation to fight terrorism.

The spiritual leader of the world's almost 1.3 billion Catholics in April became the first pope to visit the headquarters of Imam Tayeb.

The grand imam said after the meeting that Islam was facing "a war against itself", and underscored that Muslims too were "victims of terrorism".

"It is a cancer which has metastasised to different parts of the world," and Al Azhar — of Egypt's highest institution of Sunni Islam — "is offering its resources and a greater contribution for a permanent collaboration aimed at finding solutions to terrorism," he told a meeting organised by the Sant'Egidio, a Christian community officially recognised by the Vatican.

Imam Tayeb also evoked his meeting with the pontiff earlier in the day, saying: "We discussed several issues tormenting the world and we sought to … find ways together to reduce the suffering of the poor and the unfortunate."

He said the pope "has a heart filled with love and a desire that humanity benefits from inter-cultural exchanges.

"I wish to state my conviction of the necessity for a dialogue between religions, between the wise, or we risk falling back into periods of violence and darkness," he said.

"The last century witnessed two world wars which killed more than 70 million people and those that followed quickly showed how absurd they were and not a drop of blood should have been spilt."

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