The Catholic Church Al-Azhar Al Sharif
The Human Fraternity Document
For World Peace and Coexistence
Faith drives the believer to see in the other a fellow to be supported and loved. Proceeding from faith in God, Who has created the universe, the creatures and all the human beings equal out of His mercy, the believers are called on to manifest this human fraternity by caring for the creatures and the entire universe and supporting all the people, especially the poorest and the most vulnerable.
Proceeding from this transcendental sense, and through several meetings brimming with a sense of fraternity and friendship, we exchanged views on the modern world's joys, sorrows and crises. This is done at the level of scientific and technical progress, therapeutic achievements, digital era, modern media, as well as at the level of poverty, wars, and the sufferings of our fellow brothers and sisters in different parts of the world. Such sufferings are the result of the arms race, social injustice, corruption, inequality, moral decay, terrorism, racism, extremism, etc.
Through these sincere fraternal talks between us, and in a meeting full of hope for a bright future for all the humans, the idea of a "human fraternity document" was born and studied sincerely and earnestly, to be a joint declaration of good and sincere intentions. It is meant to invite all those who hold in their hearts belief in God and in human fraternity to unite and work together for this document to become a guide for the future generations. This should lead them to a culture of mutual respect within an acknowledgement of the great divine grace that has made all the people brothers and sisters.
In the name of God, Who has created all the human beings equal in rights, duties and dignity, and called on them to live together as brothers and sisters to rule the earth and disseminate the values of goodness, love and peace;
In the name of the inviolable human life that God has sanctified. He Almighty regarded the killing of one person as grievous as killing the entire humankind, and saving one person as noble as saving the entire humankind;
In the name of the poor, the wretched, the destitute and the marginalized, to whom God has commanded us to be benevolent and to assist in succoring them, as a duty binding on every human being, especially those capable and well-off;
In the name of the orphans, the widows, the refugees and those exiled from their homes and countries, and all the victims of wars, oppression and injustice, and the vulnerable, the frightened, the prisoners and the tortured all over the globe, without distinction or discrimination;
In the name of peoples who have lost their sense of security, peace, and coexistence, having been afflicted with destruction, devastation, and conflict;
In the name of human fraternity that embraces all the human beings, unites them and renders them equal;
In the name of this fraternity that has been ruptured by systems of unrestrained profit, by repugnant ideological tendencies, or by policies of extremism and division that tamper with peoples' resources and fortunes;
In the name of freedom that God has granted to all human beings as an intuitive attribute through which He has made them unparalleled;
In the name of justice and mercy, the foundation of dominance and the kernel of uprightness;
In the name of all persons of good will who are present in every part of the world;
In the name of God, and of everything stated thus far;
Al-Azhar Al-Sharif and the Muslims of the East and the West, together with the Catholic Church and the Catholics of the East and the West, declare the adoption of a culture of dialogue as a path, of cooperation as a way, and of reciprocal understanding as a method and approach.
We, who believe in God, in the final meeting with Him, and in His Judgment on the basis of our religious and moral responsibility, and through this Document, call on ourselves, the leaders of the world, and the architects of international policies and world economies to work strenuously to disseminate the culture of peaceful coexistence. We call on them to intervene immediately in order to stop the shedding of innocent blood and to put an end to wars, conflicts, environmental degradation and the moral and cultural decline the world is currently witnessing.
We call on intellectuals, philosophers, religious figures, artists, media professionals and men and women of culture in every part of the world to rediscover the values of peace, justice, goodness, beauty, human fraternity and coexistence, to confirm the significance of these values as lifelines for all, and to work on promoting them everywhere.
Springing from a profound consideration of our contemporary reality, appreciating its successes and experiencing its pains, sufferings and calamities, this Declaration builds on the firm belief that among the primary causes of the crises of the modern world are a numbed human conscience, a relinquishment of religious values and a revival of individualism and materialistic philosophies that deify the human individual and pose worldly and materialist values in the place of supreme and transcendental principles.
While acknowledging the positive steps taken in our modern civilization in the fields of science, technology, medicine, industry and welfare, especially in developed countries, we wish to maintain that such historic advancements, great and valued as they are, coincide with both deterioration in the morals guiding international action and decline of spiritual values and sense of responsibility. All this contributes to a general feeling of frustration, isolation, and desperation, leading many to fall either into a vortex of atheistic, agnostic or religious extremism or into blind bigotry, which ultimately encourage forms of addiction and individual or collective self-destruction.
History confirms that religious and national extremism as well as intolerance have all produced in the world, be it in the East or West, what might be regarded as presages of a third world war being fought piecemeal. In several parts of the world, these presages have begun to unveil their ugly faces, as in many tragic circumstances where the precise number of victims, widows, and orphans is unknown. Furthermore, other regions are being prepared to become theatres of blowups, with outbreaks of tension and a build-up of arms and ammunition, all in a global context where uncertainty, disillusionment, fear of the future, and domineering narrow-minded economic interests loom large.
Likewise, we affirm that crushing political crises, forms of injustice and lack of equitable distribution of natural resources—enjoyed only by a rich minority to the detriment of the majority of the peoples on earth—have all generated, and continued to generate, vast numbers of poor, infirm and deceased persons. This has led to catastrophic crises that afflict various countries despite their abundant natural resources and resourceful young people. Such crises that resulted in the starvation of millions of children reduced into skinny skeletons by poverty and hunger are suspiciously met with unacceptable international silence.
This context indicates the significance of the family, as an indispensable nucleus of society and humanity, in bringing children to the world, raising them, educating them, and providing them with solid moral formation and domestic security. So, attacking the institution of the family, belittling or doubting its key role is one of the most serious evils in our era.
We also affirm the importance of raising religious awareness and the need to revive this awareness in the hearts of the new generations through sound education and adherence to moral values and upright religious teachings. This is how we can confront individualistic, selfish and conflicting tendencies, and combat radicalism and blind extremism in all their forms and expressions.
The first and foremost aim of religions is for people to believe in and worship God, and to invite all men and women to believe that this universe depends on One God who governs it. He is the Creator who has formed us with His divine wisdom and granted us the gift of life so that we may protect it. It is a gift that no one has the right to take away, threaten or manipulate at will. Indeed, everyone must safeguard this gift of life from birth to natural death. We, therefore, condemn all those practices that constitute a threat to life, such as genocide, terrorist acts, forced displacement, trafficking in human organs, abortion, and the so-called "euthanasia". We, likewise, condemn the policies that promote such practices.
Moreover, we firmly declare that religions have never been meant to be an advocate of war, or a stimulus of hatred, hostility and extremism, nor a catalyst of violence or bloodshed. These tragic realities are in fact the consequence of a deviation from religious teachings. They result from political manipulation of religions and from misinterpretations made by groups of religious scholars who, in the course of history, have invested religious sentiment in driving men and women to act in a way that has nothing to do with the true essence of religion. This is done for the purpose of achieving political, economic, worldly and short-sighted objectives. We thus call on all those concerned to stop using religions to incite hatred, violence, extremism and blind fanaticism, and to refrain from using the name of God to justify acts of murder, exile, terrorism, and oppression. We make this claim out of our common belief in God Who has not created men and women to be killed or to fight one another, nor to be tortured or humiliated in their living and ways of life. God Almighty has no need to be defended by anyone and does not want His Name to be used to terrorize people.
Drawing on previous international documents that underline the important role of religions in the construction of world peace, this Document, underscores the following:
· The firm conviction that the authentic teachings of religions bid us to cling to the values of peace, to defend the values of mutual understanding, human fraternity and harmonious coexistence, to entrench wisdom, justice and love, and to reawaken religious awareness among the young people. Thus, the future generations may be protected from the grip of materialistic thinking and the dangerous policies of unbridled profiteering and indifference that are based on the law of force rather than on the force of law.
· Freedom is a right of every human being. Each individual enjoys the freedom of belief, thought, expression and action. Pluralism and diversity in religions, color, gender, race, and language, through which God created the human beings, spring from divine wisdom. This divine wisdom is the inexhaustible spring from which the rights of freedom of belief and freedom to be different derive. These rights also involve incrimination of forcing people to adhere to a certain religion or culture, and the imposition of a cultural way of life unacceptable by others.
· Mercy-based justice is the path to be followed in order to achieve a dignified life to which every human being has the right.
· Dialogue, understanding and dissemination of a culture of tolerance, acceptance of others and peaceful coexistence would contribute significantly to containing many economic, social, political and environmental problems that bear down on a large part of humanity.
· Dialogue among the believers means coming together in the vast space of spiritual, human and shared social values. It also means investing this in transmitting the highest moral virtues that religions call for and avoiding unfruitful discussions.
· The protection of places of worship—synagogues, churches and mosques—is a duty guaranteed by religions, human values, and international laws and agreements. So, every attempt to attack or threaten places of worship through violent assaults, bombings or destruction is a deviation from the teachings of religions as well as a clear violation of the international law.
· Terrorism is deplorable and it threatens the security of people, be they in the East or the West, the North or the South, and disseminates panic, terror and pessimism. It is not a result of religion, even when terrorists instrumentalize it. It is, rather, a result of an accumulation of misinterpretations of religious texts and of policies causing hunger, poverty, injustice, oppression, and overbearing. This is why it is necessary to stop supporting terrorist movements, through financing, providing them with weapons and strategy on the one hand, or justifying their cause using the media, on the other. All these actions must be regarded as international crimes that threaten the world peace and security. Such terrorism must be condemned in all its forms and manifestations.
· The concept of citizenship is based on equality in terms of rights and duties, under which everyone enjoys justice. It is, therefore, crucial to establish in our societies the concept of full citizenship and to reject the discriminatory use of the term "minorities", which engenders feelings of isolation and inferiority. Its misuse paves the way for hostility and discord. It dismantles any successes and takes away the religious and civil rights of some citizens who are thus discriminated against.
· Good relations between the East and the West are such necessary for both that they cannot be neglected or substituted. Hence, each can be enriched by the other’s culture through fruitful exchange and dialogue. The West can find in the East remedies for those spiritual and religious maladies that are caused by the prevailing materialism. In its turn, the East can find in the West many elements that can help free it from weakness, division, conflict and scientific, technical and cultural decline. It is important to pay attention to religious, cultural and historical differences that constitute a vital component in shaping the character, culture, and civilization of the East. It is likewise important to sustain the bond of fundamental human rights in a way that ensures a dignified life for all the men and women of the East and the West, avoiding the double standards politics.
· It is a pressing necessity to recognize the right of women to education and employment and to recognize their freedom to exercise their own political rights. Moreover, efforts should be made to free women from historical and social pressures that are contradictory to the principles of their faith and dignity. It is also necessary to protect women from sexual exploitation and from commodification. Accordingly, all those inhuman and vulgar practices that denigrate the dignity of women must be brought to an end. Efforts must be made to amend those laws that prevent women from fully enjoying their rights.
· Protection of the fundamental rights of the children to grow up in family environment, and to receive nutrition, education, and support, are duties of the family and the society. Such duties must be guaranteed and protected so that they may not be overlooked or denied to any child in any part of the world. All the practices that violate the dignity and rights of the children must be denounced. It is equally important to be vigilant against the dangers to which the children are exposed, particularly in the digital world, and to incriminate the trafficking of their innocence and all the violations against it by any means.
· Protection of the rights of the elderly, the infirm, the disabled, and the oppressed is a religious and social obligation that must be guaranteed and defended through strict legislations and the implementation of relevant international agreements.
To this end, and through joint cooperation between the Catholic Church and Al-Azhar Al-Sharif, we announce and pledge to convey this Document to authorities, influential leaders, religious figures all over the world, competent regional and international organizations, civil society organizations, religious institutions and leading thinkers. We further pledge to disseminate the principles contained in this Declaration at all regional and international levels, and request that they be translated into policies, decisions, legislative texts, courses of study and materials to be circulated.
We also ask that this Document become the object of research and reflection in all schools, universities, and educational and pedagogical institutes, thus helping to educate new generations to bring goodness and peace to others, and to be defenders of the rights of the oppressed, the persecuted and the wretched everywhere.
In conclusion, our aspiration is that this Declaration may constitute an invitation for reconciliation and fraternity among all the believers, and non-believers, and among all the people of good will.
This Declaration may be an appeal to every upright conscience that rejects execrable violence and blind extremism, an appeal to those who cherish the values of tolerance and fraternity that are promoted and encouraged by religions.
This Declaration may be a witness to the greatness of faith in God that unites divided hearts and elevates the human soul.
This Declaration may be a sign of the closeness between the East and the West, between the North and the South, and between all who believe that God has created us to know one another, cooperate with one another and live together as brothers and sisters who love one another.
This is what we hope and seek to achieve with the aim of finding a universal peace that everyone can enjoy in this life.
His Holiness HE the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Pope Francis Ahmad At-Tayyeb