Photo: Dr. Ahmad el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar Al Sharif, and Pope Francis visit Sheikh Zayed Mosque on February 4, 2019 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (Francois Nel/Getty Images)
Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in Egypt Ahmad Al-Tayyeb have recommitted to “human fraternity” as the solution to religious extremism.
– “Religions have nothing to do” with violence, discrimination and hatred
The pontiff himself shared the news of the redoubled Catholic and Muslim effort against fanaticism that he is spearheading along Al-Tayyeb, who as the head of the Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo and former president of the adjoining university there is one of the world’s highest authorities in Sunni Islam.
The Pope took to Twitter November 20 to announce that he had spoken with Al-Tayyeb by phone the day before.
“A pleasure to speak by phone yesterday with my brother @alimamaltayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar”, the Pope wrote.
“We reaffirm our support to human fraternity as the solution to erase violence, discrimination and hatred in the name of religion. Religions have nothing to do with these. #FratelliTutti“.
For his part, Al-Tayyeb confirmed the news of his phone conversation with the pontiff on his own Twitter account, where he wrote that “I was pleased to speak over the phone yesterday with my brother @Pontifex“.
“We discussed a number of issues and our continued support for human fraternity as a means to eliminating violence, discrimination and hate, and that religions are not to be blamed for these indiscretions”.
– Resolute collaboration in the task of disowning people of faith who enshrine violence
The Pope and the Grand Imam’s call on Twitter to human fraternity is echoed in Francis’ October 3 encyclical Fratelli tutti.
There the pontiff writes that he felt “particularly encouraged” by Al-Tayyeb to write the document (FT, 5). Francis says that he drew special inspiration from the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together that the pair signed together in Abu Dhabi in February 2019, in which both “resolutely” declared that “religions must never incite war, hateful attitudes, hostility and extremism, nor must they incite violence or the shedding of blood. These tragic realities are the consequence of a deviation from religious teachings”.
The Pope and the Grand Imam were also able to restage their determination to stamp out religious fanaticism at an October 20 interfaith Prayer for Peace event in Rome.
At that event, Francis insisted that “love alone is the path towards full communion among us”, and that “religions do not want war and, indeed, disown those who would enshrine violence”.
Though he was unable to attend the vigil in person, Al-Tayyeb sent a message for the occasion in which he affirmed that religion has the “authentic, real” task of raising common “human values” but lamented that faith has been “marginalised, abused and often accused of being the cause of terrorism and extremism”.
In his message for the interreligious peace event, Al-Tayyeb also deplored as a “sinful criminal act” the October 16 beheading of Parisian teacher Samuel Paty at the hands of a young Muslim extremist.
“I was deeply saddened by the terrorist attack in the Austrian capital Vienna. This despicable act sadly turned a tranquil city into an arena for bloodshed and terror”, Al-Tayyeb denounced in a November 3 tweet.
“I greatly sympathise with the victims of this attack and their families as well as all victims of terrorism around the world. I also call for a united international effort to combat terrorism, extremism and hate speech”, he wrote, calling for the support he has found in Pope Francis.