The Abu Dhabi document on human fraternity signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in Egypt in 2019 is bearing fruit in Croatia.

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The President of the Croatian Conference of Bishops, Archbishop Želimir Puljić of Zadar, and the Archbishop of Zagreb, Cardinal Josip Bozanić, received for cordial talks February 4 the Secretary General of the Muslim World League, Sheik Muhammad bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, at the headquarters of the Croatian Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Zagreb.

The occasion was the co-organization of a two-day conference of interreligious and multiethnic dialogue, “Human Fraternity: The Foundation of Peace and Stability in the World”, coinciding with the first anniversary of the signing of the Abu Dhabi document during the Pope’s 2019 trip to the United Arab Emirates.

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“This declaration [on human fraternity] is the fruit of what the Church outlined at the Second Vatican Council”, Archbishop Puljić told Croatian Catholic Radio.

“Pope Francis made a good point when he said: ‘We either build the future together or there will not be a future’. This declaration is an awakening of the awareness that all of us on this earth are God’s creatures, that we are brothers and that we have to work together, regardless of the religion or nation to which we belong”.

“If we, as Catholic believers and Muslim believers, are drawn together by God… he who is close to God is close to man”, added for his part Cardinal Bozanić, speaking about the Abu Dhabi document.

“In today’s secularized world, believers are needed, those who will show that there are some values we share in common, which give us the strength for life. Life without the perspective that God opens for man is an empty life”.

Why it matters

“This is a new beginning that is based on the Declaration on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, signed in Abu Dhabi on February 4, 2019, by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayeb”, celebrated Mufti Effendi Aziz Hasanović, President of the Meshihat of the Islamic Community in Croatia.

“This declaration is a civilizational and religious step forward, particularly Catholic-Muslim, which for us at this time is a powerful message and inspiration to be even better and more persistent in promoting the universal values of fraternity, love and fellowship”.

The Secretary General of the Muslim World League had earlier said at the interfaith conference in Zagreb that he was pleased that Croatia had opted for a concrete model of religions working and living together – along the lines of the Abu Dhabi document – and not for some abstract model of mere coexistence side-by-side.

For the record

The interfaith conference and meetings in Zagreb almost coincided, too, with a visit to the Vatican by Croatian PM Andrej Plenković for talks with the Pope and high-ranking Holy See officials.

After those talks, which centred, among other things, on the challenges facing the future of Europe, Plenković again invited the pontiff to visit Croatia.

Regarding, precisely, the interfaith initiatives in Zagreb – organised as part of the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union that Croatia took over January 1 – Plenković declared after meeting the Pope:

“I think that the message we have sent through our presidency is that we are not only using the very good model of relations between the Croatian authorities and the Islamic community in Croatia but that that model can serve as an example to other European countries”.

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.