Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 October 2019

Endorsements flow in for Human Fraternity Document at the UN General Assembly

The document is described as a blueprint to help future generations advance a culture of global mutual respect

Pope Francis and Egypt's Azhar Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb greet each other after signing documents during the Human Fraternity Meeting at the Founders Memorial in Abu Dhabi in February. AFP
Pope Francis and Egypt's Azhar Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb greet each other after signing documents during the Human Fraternity Meeting at the Founders Memorial in Abu Dhabi in February. AFP

A groundswell of endorsements for the Human Fraternity Document has been a feature of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) gathering in New York.

The document was the product of the groundbreaking papal visit to Abu Dhabi in February when Pope Francis and Dr Ahmed Al Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar, launched the worldwide project centred on mutual respect.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres commented on the initiative when he addressed the Global Call to Protect Religious Freedom Event convened by the US president Donald Trump at the UN in advance of the General Debate.

“It is totally unacceptable in the twenty‑first century for people to face discrimination and intimidation for their beliefs. The persecution of religious minorities is utterly intolerable,” Mr Guterres said. “The full scope of their human rights is guaranteed, and States have an obligation to implement policies that ensure their identities are respected and that they feel fully part of society as a whole.

Earlier this year, His Holiness Pope Francis, along with the Grand Imam of Al‑Azhar, his Eminence Sheikh Ahmed al‑Tayeb, signed a moving testament for mutual respect. It stated that the diversity of religions is willed by the Creator. “This divine wisdom,” they wrote, “is the source from which the right to freedom of belief and the freedom to be different derive.”

The signing in Abu Dhabi initiated a process that has seen two meetings of the higher committee that was formed to develop the document. It met in Rome in September and New York last week.

At a UAE diplomatic reception on Wednesday that was hosted by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the foreign minister, a discussion on the document featured.

Omar bin Sultan Al Olama, minister of state for Artificial Intelligence, spoke of the UAE’s symbols of tolerance, coexistence and human progress where everyone co-operates. “The Human Fraternity Document calls on strengthening human relations and build bridges of communication, harmony and love among peoples,” he said.

Speaking in New York, a member of the committee told reporters that the document’s global reach would be a priority at UNGA and noted Mr Guterres backing for the project. Mohamed Mahmoud Abdel Salam, a former advisor to the Grand Imam, said the Secretary General was drawing on it as a source of his initiatives to foster tolerance.

“The United Nations is stepping up action through two new initiatives that I have launched in recent weeks,” announced Mr Guterres. “ First, through a strategy on hate speech to coordinate efforts across the United Nations system, addressing the root causes and making our response more effective against hate speech. Second, an action plan for the United Nations to be fully engaged in efforts to support and safeguard religious sites and ensure the safety of houses of worship.”

The committee also launched in New York the designs for the Abrahamic Family House, a place of worship to be built on Saadiyat Island

The project provides recognition of Islam, Christianity and Judaism through the construction of three main buildings – a mosque, a church and a synagogue – around a central garden and alongside a museum and centre for education.

Updated: September 26, 2019 10:02 PM

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