Pope Francis and Ahmed el-Tayyeb shake hands after signing the Document on Human Fraternity (Foto ©Vatican Media)
By Heather Walker
ROME — One year ago, just days prior to Italy’s first lockdown, The Lay Centre was a hive of activity in preparation for its 2020 inaugural event, “Planting Seeds of Hope” — an international roundtable on the “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together.” The document had been signed one year earlier, on Feb. 4, by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb.
This year, on the document’s second anniversary, the international community will observe the International Day of Human Fraternity, inspired by the landmark document. The United Nations declared the annual observance in a resolution that was passed Dec. 21. The representative of the United Arab Emirates, acting on behalf of several other Member States of the UN, introduced the resolution.
This new International Day of Human Fraternity demonstrates that the document’s theme and content are as relevant today as they were two years ago.
The speakers at our roundtable event — Cardinal Michael Fitzgerald, M.Afr., Dr. Sharon Rosen, and Dr. Nayla Tabbara — had underlined the significance of the document and its expected long-lasting effects in interreligious relations.
In a video interview after the public event, Cardinal Fitzgerald, former president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, described the document as “courageous,” “wide-ranging,” “realistic” and “yet vague on certain points.”
“The document speaks about ‘authentic teachings of religions’ but who is going to decide what is an authentic teaching and what is not?” he asked.
During the roundtable, he invited the audience to reflect on how “this document is a work in progress, an encouragement to go on. It does not pretend to say a final word.”
“I love the message at the very beginning that this is not just a document for humanity but also for the safeguarding of the creation and the entire universe as a whole,” she said. “Peace is not just human-centred, it depends on the whole system, and the environmental threat that we are living through now bears witness to this.”
“The Document on Human Fraternity resonates today on the ground with the themes of dialogue, diversity, coexistence, freedom of religion. These topics are what is demanded by people at the grassroots,” she said.
She commented on the use of the term “full citizenship” in the document, and explained how she advocates for the term “inclusive citizenship” instead.
“We mean a citizenship that is equal to all but where diversity is not shut away,” she said. “People can thus live their different denominations, be it religious, cultural, etc., in the public sphere. This allows all denominations to be respected and there would not be one overtaking the public space.”
On Thursday, Feb. 4, Pope Francis will celebrate the International Day of Human Fraternity in a virtual event hosted by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, with the participation of the Grand Imam of al Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayyeb; Secretary General António Guterres of the United Nations; and other personalities. The meeting will be streamed by Vatican News at 14:30 Rome time.
Photo copyright Foto ©Vatican Media
Videos courtesy @photogennari Cristian Gennari
Interview with Cardinal Michael L. Fitzgerald, M.Afr.
Interview with Dr. Nayla Tabbara
Interview with Dr. Sharon Rosen
'Planting Seeds of Hope: Grassroots Initiatives on Creating a Culture of Dialogue,' Feb. 20, 2020.
A Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together
Encyclical Letter Fratelli Tutti of the Holy Father Francis on Fraternity and Social Friendship
Interfaith Harmony Week
Zayed Award for Human Fraternity