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ROME – On the second annual Day of Human Fraternity both religious and secular leaders have joined voices calling for greater brotherhood and solidarity, saying faith implies respect for all people regardless of their traditions or beliefs.
These leaders include Pope Francis, the Grand Imam of Egypt’s prestigious Al-Azhar mosque and university, Ahmed al-Tayeb, and United States President Joe Biden.
In a video message marking the Feb. 4 anniversary, Pope Francis said fraternity “is one of the fundamental and universal values that ought to undergird relationships between peoples.”
“In a mutual and shared spirit of fraternity, all of us must work to promote a culture of peace that encourages sustainable development, tolerance, inclusion, mutual understanding and solidarity,” he said.
The international Day of Human Fraternity is observed on the anniversary of the signing of a Document on Human Fraternity by Pope Francis and al-Tayeb in Abu Dhabi on Feb. 4, 2019, during the pope’s visit to the United Arab Emirates.
The document stresses religious freedom as a basic human right, condemns fundamentalist terrorism, and urges world leaders to join forces in working for peace. Biden was gifted a copy of the document by Pope Francis during their meeting in October.
Shortly after the pope’s visit, a Higher Committee of Human Fraternity was formed in the UAE and which is supported by Pope Francis, al-Tayeb, and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al Nahyan, who is Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and patron of human fraternity.
The pope’s video for this year’s celebration of the Day of Human Fraternity was shared at a Feb. 4 event in Abu Dhabi titled, “The Human Fraternity and the Global Tolerance Alliance Roundtable,” which was attended by Vatican representatives.
In his Feb. 4 message for the anniversary, Biden lamented that “For too long, the narrowed view that our shared prosperity is a zero-sum game has festered – the view that for one person to succeed, another has to fail; if one person gets ahead, another must fall behind.”
“This cramped idea has been a source of human conflict for centuries, and to this day, many communities around the world face violence, persecution, and abuse simply because of who they are, what they believe, or where they come from,” he said.
These and other global challenges are “too great for any one nation or group of people to solve,” he said, insisting that problems such as the coronavirus pandemic, climate change, and violent conflicts “require us to speak with one another in open dialogue to promote tolerance, inclusion, and understanding.”
“In my life, faith has always been a beacon of hope and a calling to purpose even during the darkest of days,” he said, insisting that the Day of Human Fraternity is “a real opportunity to build a better world that upholds universal human rights, lifts every human being, and advances peace and security for all.”
In his message, Pope Francis stressed that “We all live under the same heaven, independently of where and how we live, the color of our skin, religion, social group, sex, age, economic conditions or our state of health.”
“All of us are different yet equal,” he said, insisting that believers from all faith traditions have a role to play.
“Now is the fitting time to journey together, believers and all people of good will. Do not leave it to tomorrow or an uncertain future,” he said. “This is a good day to extend a hand, to celebrate our unity in diversity – unity, not uniformity, unity in diversity.”
“Either we are brothers and sisters, or everything falls apart,” he said, urging believers, despite the long and challenging path of brotherhood, to counter mindsets of violence and hate “with the sign of fraternity that, in accepting others and respecting their identity, invites them to a shared journey.”
In remarks given at the Abu Dhabi human fraternity roundtable, al-Tayeb echoed much of what Biden and Pope Francis said, saying the anniversary is a further step in “a quest for a better world where the spirit of tolerance, fraternity, solidarity, and collaboration prevails.”
Calling Pope Francis “the incessantly courageous companion on the path of fraternity and peace,” al-Tayeb said the document on human fraternity that he signed with the pope in 2019 is a result of “our common belief in mutual understanding among the followers of religions, not excluding the non-believers, in order to get rid of misjudgments and conflicts that often lead to bloodshed and warfare among people.”
The document on human fraternity signed by himself and the pope in 2019 was the result of “our common belief in mutual understanding among the followers of religions, not excluding the non-believers, in order to get rid of misjudgments and conflicts that often lead to bloodshed and warfare among people,” he said.
“‘All humans are fellow brothers and sisters,’ as maintained by the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad,” he said.
The joint pursuit of human fraternity is “far from accessible in a world ridden by limitless conflicts, given that such objectives are unacceptable for warmongers,” al-Tayeb said. “Yet, taking the road of peace is predestined for all the believers in God and His Messages, no matter how serious challenges and obstacles might be.”
Al-Tayeb insisted that “God willing, I will keep pursuing the commenced peace efforts, along with fellow religious leaders and lovers of goodness around the world, towards achieving peace and world fraternity and fellow feeling, and removing all the stimuli of hate, conflicts, and wars.”
“We are really in bad need of amity, cooperation, and solidarity to encounter the genuine challenges threatening humanity and compromising its stability,” he said, and prayed that Allah would “always unite us for good purposes, for He alone can do that.”
Follow Elise Ann Allen on Twitter: @eliseannallen