Delhi event marks first anniversary of fraternity document

The Archdiocese of Delhi hosted an interfaith meeting to celebrate the first anniversary of the historic document signed by Pope Francis and the grand imam of Al-Azhar on fraternity among mankind.

Mar 05, 2020

By Bijay Kumar Minj
The Archdiocese of Delhi hosted an interfaith meeting to celebrate the first anniversary of the historic document signed by Pope Francis and the grand imam of Al-Azhar on fraternity among mankind.

Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb signed the Document on Human Fraternity on Feb. 4, 2019, in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. It highlights the need for fraternity among all men and women of goodwill who are invited to promote justice and peace, guaranteeing human rights and religious freedom.

“The document is a step closer toward peace building because it speaks of empathy, diversity and solidarity and these three elements are the core of the whole document,” said Irfan A. Omar, an associate professor at the department of theology at Marquette University in the United States.

“The document talks about dialogue between different faiths and how dialogue can unite and bring all faiths together,” explained Omar, who specialises in Islamic thought with a focus on connections between Islam and other religions.

He was addressing a seminar in New Delhi on Feb. 24 organised by the Archdiocese of Delhi’s commission for interreligious dialogue  and Islamic studies associations.

Some 100 leaders of different faiths, activists, scholars and civil society attended a lecture with the theme Pope Francis and Grand Imam Tayed on Human Fraternity.

Archbishop Anil Joseph Thomas Couto of Delhi told the seminar that it was time for action to implement the document as it speaks of love, brotherhood and respect for other faiths.

“Here in India one also cannot deny that  some parties and politicians use religion for their gain. So we have to be careful and watchful. We have to tackle the fundamentalism which tries to divide people in the name of religion,” he said.

Gurminder Singh, a Sikh leader said, respect for other people and religions starts in the home and can be developed through education.

“We all talk about our religion which teaches that God is one and we have to love our brethren but when the situation arises, we fail to do so. The time has come, especially now when the country is going through a difficult period, when only love and respect for others can save our nation,” Singh said.

A.K. Merchant, secretary of the Lotus Temple and Baha’í Community of India said: “Here in India minorities have a very good bond among themselves, so it will be easy for all of us to work together. But due to certain circumstances sometimes we fail, so we have to take extra care on that front.”

Born of an open discussion between Pope Francis and Imam Tayeb, the document is intended to be a guide on advancing “a culture of mutual respect” and is concerned with how different faiths can coexist peaceably.

Pope Francis and Imam Tayeb declared “the  adoption of a culture of dialogue as the path; mutual cooperation as the code of conduct; reciprocal understanding as the method and standard.”

The document called on world leaders “to work strenuously to spread the culture of tolerance and of living together in peace; 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 that the world is presently experiencing.”

They asked leaders and would-be influencers to rediscover the values of peace, justice, goodness, beauty, human fraternity and coexistence in order to confirm the importance of these values as anchors of salvation for all, and to promote them everywhere.

“Terrorism is deplorable and threatens the security of people, be they in the East or the West, the North or the South. It disseminates panic, terror and pessimism but this is not due to religion, even when terrorists instrumentalise it. It is due, rather, to an accumulation of incorrect interpretations of religious texts and to policies linked to hunger, poverty, injustice, oppression and pride,” the document stated.

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