A milestone in the complex dialogue between Islam and Christianity

000_1d12n2When the head of the Roman church representing 1.2 billion Catholics signs a joint declaration with the head of the highest seat in Sunni Islam, it ought to be big news.

Yet the significance of the declaration signed in Abu Dhabi this month by Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church, and Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, Grand Imam of al-Azhar, has slipped under the radar amid criticism over the Pope’s decision to visit the UAE while it is involved in the war in Yemen and the blockade against Qatar.

But for those who have focused their attention on the contents of the document and the two leaders’ speeches, it is clear that the Grand Imam and the Pope have set a milestone in the complex dialogue between the two faiths.

The “Document on Human Fraternity” is the first ever signed by representatives of the two religions in which they pledge to work together for the benefit of the “human fraternity”. It implies the two faiths have found a common understanding and a united front against attempts to abuse God’s message and manipulate religion.

Rejecting violence

“We resolutely declare that religions must never incite war, hateful attitudes, hostility and extremism, nor must they incite violence or the shedding of blood,” the document states.

“These tragic realities are the consequence of a deviation from religious teachings. They result from a political manipulation of religions and from interpretations made by religious groups who, in the course of history, have taken advantage of the power of religious sentiment …. This is done for the purpose of achieving objectives that are political, economic, worldly and short-sighted.”

Both Sheikh al-Tayeb and Pope Francis have launched a joint appeal to political and religious leaders, intellectuals, artists and media worldwide to reject violence in all its forms, promote positive values and strive for establishing a more righteous and peaceful world – not only for the benefit of believers of the three monotheistic faiths, but also for non-believers.

Questioning the East-West dichotomy, the two leaders warned that religious hatred is causing ‘signs of a third world war being fought piecemeal’

“The fact that people are forced to adhere to a certain religion or culture must be rejected, as too the imposition of a cultural way of life that others do not accept,” the declaration notes.

FULL ARTICLE FROM MIDDLE EAST EYE 

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Pope: Respect, dialogue key for peace between Christians, Muslims

10776016-3x2-700x467VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis said his recent visit to the United Arab Emirates, while brief, was a new page in relations between Christians and Muslims at a time when conflict and violence threaten the goal of lasting peace.

Recalling his Feb. 3-5 visit to Abu Dhabi, the pope said during his weekly general audience Feb. 6 that the joint document signed by him and Egyptian Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, the grand imam of al-Azhar and chair of the Muslim Council of Elders, was a step forward in promoting dialogue and brotherhood.

“In an age like ours, in which there is a strong temptation to see a clash between Christian and Islamic civilizations taking place, and also to consider religions as sources of conflict, we wanted to give another clear and decisive sign that, on the contrary, it is possible to meet, respect and dialogue with each other, and that, despite the diversity of cultures and traditions, the Christian and Islamic worlds appreciate and protect common values: life, the family, religious belief, honor for the elderly, the education of young people and much more,” the pope said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CATHOLIC NEWS 

 

Pope Francis gives historic 1st Mass in the birthplace of Islam

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Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates — Pope Francis ministered on Tuesday to the thriving Catholic community in the United Arab Emirates as he concluded his historic visit to the Arabian Peninsula with the first-ever papal Mass here and a call for his flock to remain meek in following God. A day after making a broad appeal for Christian and Muslim leaders to work together to promote peace and reject war, Francis celebrated what some considered the largest show of public Christian worship on the peninsula, the birthplace of Islam.

Cheers erupted inside and outside the Zayed Sports City Stadium as Francis arrived and looped through the crowd in his open-sided popemobile, as chants of “Viva il Papa” and “We love you!” echoed from the crowd, estimated to be around 135,000.

Organizers said faithful from 100 countries would attend, as well as 4,000 Muslims from this Muslim federation — evidence of the enormous diversity among the 9 million people who live in the UAE.

“We have to say it is really a big event for us which we never expected,” said Sumitha Pinto, and Indian native who has lived in the UAE for nearly 20 years. She attended the Mass with her husband and four sons, the youngest of whom held up sign with the pope’s photo that read: “Welcome Pope Francis. Make Me a Channel of Your Peace.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM CBS NEWS 

‘Never expected this in my life’: Christians of the UAE hail pope’s visit

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ABU DHABI — Sarika Yaqoob and her family left Dubai at midnight to arrive in Abu Dhabi at 3:00 a.m. on Tuesday, the day Pope Francis would deliver a historic mass during what was the first-ever visit by a pontiff to the Arabian Peninsula.

“We’ve been here since 3 a.m., we were walking all the way,” Yaqoob told CNBC at the edge of Zayed Sports City Stadium, where more than 140,000 attendees had gathered for the mass both inside and outside the venue.

Because of blocked roads, her family parked their car some six miles from the stadium and walked. But they aren’t tired, she said, her voice brimming with anticipation. “We are not tired, we are very excited, really energetic … our legs are aching, but it’s something you get to witness once in a lifetime. This is something that is very exciting.”

Yaqoob, whose family hails from Pakistan, is one of the estimated 1 million Catholics living in the United Arab Emirates. The invitation by the UAE government of Pope Francis has drawn attention to the comparative religious freedom enjoyed by its residents, who span more than 200 nationalities, in a region that’s better known for strict Islamic conservatism.

“I never thought I would see this, because it’s a Muslim country,” one attendee, a Filipina resident of Dubai for the past nine years, told CNBC from the stadium stands. “It is so nice … I cannot explain it.”

“This is a very, very big blessing to see him in Abu Dhabi, and was a lifetime experience for us,” said 23-year-old Joshua Sebastian, a Catholic from Kerala, India. “It’s a big deal to see him here in UAE, I’ve only seen him on the internet and videos on Youtube. But seeing him in a close vicinity was like … I have no words for that.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM CNBC

Top cleric urges Middle East’s Muslims to ’embrace’ Christians

_105475518_mediaitem105475514The head of Sunni Islam’s highest seat of learning has urged the Middle East’s Muslims to “embrace” local Christians.

Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of al-Azhar in Egypt, told an interfaith meeting in Abu Dhabi attended by Pope Francis that Christians were “our companions”.

He also called on Muslims in the West to integrate into their communities while maintaining their identities.

In his speech, Pope Francis called for a halt to wars in the Middle East.

The head of the Roman Catholic Church, who is on his first official visit to the Arabian peninsula, said the “fateful consequences” of violence could be seen in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Libya.

The United Arab Emirates is part of a Saudi-led coalition whose intervention in the conflict in Yemen has helped trigger the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Sheikh Ahmed and Pope Francis addressed a gathering of religious representatives at the Abu Dhabi Founder’s Memorial on Monday night after signing a “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together”.

The document calls on leaders of the world to work together to “spread the culture of tolerance” and to “intervene at the earliest opportunity to stop the shedding of innocent blood and bring an end to wars, conflicts, environmental decay and the moral and cultural decline the world is presently experiencing”.

It also includes a strong condemnation of those using God’s name to justify violence. “God, the Almighty, has no need to be defended by anyone and does not want His name to be used to terrorise people,” it states.

Christians – and members of other religious minorities – have been attacked repeatedly by Islamist extremists in countries across the Middle East in recent years. They have also faced restrictions on their ability to practice their religion, as well as legal and social discrimination.

FULL ARTICLE FROM BBC

Papal visit: Pope Francis in Abu Dhabi to mark a historic day for inter-faith relations – live updates

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History was made on Sunday when the wheels of Pope Francis’s flight from Rome touched down in Abu Dhabi. The Pope’s first day in the UAE will be a moment for all faiths to meet and build strong relationships based on religious tolerance.

Here you will find live coverage of the Pope’s visit from The National’s reporters across the UAE, as it happens. All times UTC+4

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5:12 Private meeting with Muslim Council of Elders begins

In a landmark moment for interfaith relations, Pope Francis will attend a private meeting of the members of the Muslim Council of Elders.

The meeting is expected to take between 30 to 45 minutes.

The National’s reporter, Sofia Barbarani, is at the Grand Mosque, at a uniquely quiet time.

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Sofia Barbarani@SofiaBarbarani

Pope Francis is at the Grand mosque in Abu Dhabi meeting with members of the Muslim council of elders. His busy schedule will see him end the day at an interfaith meeting this evening where he is due to give a speech. @TheNationalUAE

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17:08 Pope Francis arrives at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

A convoy of cars, carrying Pope Francis in the Kia Soul has arrived at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

Pope Francis was met by the Grand Imam of Al Azhar Al Sharif University, Dr Ahmed Al Tayeb, who welcomed him to the mosque.

John Dennehy@john_denn

Pope Francis. Sheikh Zayed Mosque.

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16:55 Pope Francis’ arrival is imminent

The live stream of Pope Francis’ visit to Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque has now begun and his arrival appears to be imminent.

The pontiff will attend a private meeting with the Muslim Concil of Elders.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NATIONAL 

Popes in the Middle East: Highlights of papal outreach in the region

.- Pope Francis is set to celebrate the first papal Mass on the Arabian peninsula next week during his Feb. 3-5 visit to Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates.

The pope’s Mass at the Zayed sports stadium on Feb. 5 is expected to draw at least 135,000 people. Many in attendance will be migrant workers from Asia residing in the UAE, a country in which 89 percent of the population are not citizens. It will not only be the first papal Mass on the peninsula, but the first public Mass in the country.

Since the Second Vatican Council there have been significant milestones in Muslim-Catholic relations in the region. Here is a look at some of the highlights:

First pope on a plane

The first time a pope ever traveled on a plane was on a trip to the Middle East. Saint Paul VI flew from Italy to Jordan in January 1964, making history as the first pope to leave Europe. Paul VI met with King Hussein in Amman before continuing his journey to Jerusalem.

First pope in a mosque

Saint John Paul II made history as the first pope to enter a mosque during his visit to Syria in May 2001. John Paul II went to Damascus’ Umayyad Mosque, which had been built in 715 on top of a fourth-century Christian cathedral said to contain the head of John the Baptist.

In March 2003, days before US President George W. Bush announced the official start of the Iraq war, St. John Paul II called for a worldwide fast for peace in the Middle East.

The Polish pontiff, known for his extensive papal travels during his 27-year pontificate, was also the first pope to visit several Middle Eastern nations, including Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CATHOLIC NEWS AGENCY