Rarely have two of the world’s highest religious authorities shown such deep commitment to working together to consolidate peaceful coexistence and strengthen amicable dialogue.
And rarely have such leaders endeavored to "liberate the image of religions from false concepts, misunderstandings, malpractices, and false religiosity attached to them - evils that bestir conflicts, spread hate, and instigate violence."
His Holiness Pope Francis, and His Eminence the Sheikh of Al Azhar and Chairman of the Muslim Council of Elder Dr. Ahmed AlTayeb have been holding regular meetings to promote understanding and dialogue between the two most important religious institutions - Islamic and Christian - in the world.
The series of religious summits for dialogue and peace between them began with the historic visit by the Grand Imam to the Vatican, the heart of the Catholic Church, in 2016.
The visit paved the way for a global peace conference and marked the launch of several joint initiatives to consolidate the spirit of dialogue and promote tolerance and coexistence while confronting extremism and terrorism and supporting world peace.
Pope Francis made a historic visit in October 2017 to Al Azhar in Cairo 2017 where he participated in "Al Azhar World Peace Conference" that stressed the importance of upholding the human values embodied in the teachings of religions and strengthening the role of religious institutions in facing humanitarian and economic problems, including poverty, illiteracy and the repercussions of wars.
The third summit between the two religious leaders took place in November 2017 as they participated in the Third International Forum "East and West... Towards a Civilized Dialogue" hosted in the Italian capital, Rome.
Pope Francis invited the Sheikh of Al-Azhar to his papal headquarters. During their meeting, Al Tayyib stressed Al-Azhar's readiness to provide expertise to enhance cooperation between religions and spread the idea of peace and a culture of coexistence to face global challenges.
On the sidelines of his visit to Italy in October 2018 for a prestigious award from the Italian University of Bologna, the Grand Imam participated in the World Conference on Dialogue and Coexistence "Bridges of Peace" in Bologna.
The Pope and the Sheikh in the Vatican explored the idea of a "Document on Human Fraternity" between Al Azhar, the Muslim Council of Elders, and the Vatican.
The fifth meeting occurred on February 4, 1919 in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, where the two leaders signed the Document on Human Fraternity.
"It is a document that invites all persons who have faith in God and faith in human fraternity to unite and work together so that it may serve as a guide for future generations to advance a culture of mutual respect in the awareness of the great divine grace that makes all human beings brothers and sisters."
The sixth meeting is taking place in Bahrain "whose history is proudly defined by its noble people who have always cherished diversity and acceptance of the other, no matter the differences in race, belief, thought or culture."
The two religious leaders, participating in the "Bahrain Dialogue Forum: East and West for Human Coexistence", have confirmed the increasingly important need to work together to promote peace, fraternity, and coexistence.
CCD reprinted with permission.