APOSTOLIC JOURNEY OF HIS HOLINESS FRANCESCO IN THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (3-5 FEBRUARY 2019)
INTERRELIGIOUS MEETING ADDRESS OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS
Founder’s Memorial (Abu Dhabi) Monday, February 4, 2019
Al Salamò Alaikum! Peace be with you!
I warmly thank His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Dr. Ahmad Al-Tayyib, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, for their words. I am grateful to the Council of the Elders for the meeting we have just had at the Sheikh Zayed Mosque.
I also cordially greet the Lord Abd Al-Fattah Al-Sisi, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, land of Al-Azhar. I cordially greet the civil and religious authorities and the diplomatic corps. Allow me also a sincere thanks for the warm welcome that everyone has reserved for me and our delegation.
I also thank all the people who helped make this trip possible and who have worked with dedication, enthusiasm and professionalism for this event: the organizers, the staff of the Protocol, that of Security and all those who have given their contribution in different ways. “behind the scenes”. Special thanks to Mr. Mohamed Abdel Salam, former advisor to the Grand Imam.
From your country I address all the countries of this Peninsula, to whom I wish to address my most cordial greeting, with friendship and esteem.
With a grateful heart to the Lord, in the eighth centenary of the meeting between St. Francis of Assisi and the Sultan al-Malik al-Kāmil, I have accepted the opportunity to come here as a thirsty believer of peace, as a brother who seeks peace with the brothers. Wanting peace, promoting peace, being instruments of peace: we are here for this.
The logo of this trip depicts a dove with an olive branch. It is an image that recalls the story of the primordial flood, present in different religious traditions. According to the biblical story, to preserve humanity from destruction God asks Noah to enter the ark with his family. Today, too, in the name of God, in order to safeguard peace, we need to come together as one family into an ark that can sail the stormy seas of the world: the ark of brotherhood .
The starting point is to recognize that God is at the origin of the one human family. He, who is the Creator of everything and everyone, wants us to live as brothers and sisters, dwelling in the common house of creation that He has given us. Here, at the roots of our common humanity, brotherhood is founded as a “vocation contained in the design of God”  . It tells us that we all have equal dignity and that no one can be a master or a slave to others.
One can not honor the Creator without preserving the sacredness of every person and every human life: each one is equally precious in the eyes of God. Because He does not look to the human family with a look of preference that excludes, but with a benevolent look that includes. Therefore, recognizing the same rights to every human being is to glorify God’s name on earth. In the name of God the Creator, therefore, every form of violence goes without hesitation, because it is a serious profanation of the Name of God to use it to justify hatred and violence against the brother. There is no violence that can be religiously justified.
Enemy of the brotherhood is individualism, which translates into the will to affirm oneself and one’s group over others. It is a trap that threatens all aspects of life, even the highest and innate prerogative of man, that is, openness to transcendence and religiosity. True religiosity consists in loving God with all our heart and neighbor as ourselves. Religious conduct therefore needs to be continually purified by the recurring temptation to judge other enemies and adversaries. Each creed is called to overcome the gap between friends and enemies, to assume the perspective of Heaven, which embraces men without privileges and discriminations.
I would therefore like to express my appreciation for the commitment of this country to tolerate and guarantee freedom of worship, facing extremism and hatred. In so doing, while promoting the fundamental freedom to profess one’s own creed, an intrinsic requirement for the very realization of man, one also watches to ensure that religion is not exploited and risks, admitting violence and terrorism, of denying itself.
The brotherhood certainly “also expresses the multiplicity and difference that exists between the brothers, though linked by birth and having the same nature and the same dignity”  . Religious plurality is its expression. In this context, the right attitude is neither forced uniformity nor conciliatory syncretism: what we are called to do, as believers, is to commit ourselves to the equal dignity of all, in the name of the Merciful who created us and in whose name the composition of contrasts and the fraternity in diversity must be sought. Here I would like to reaffirm the conviction of the Catholic Church: “We can not invoke God as the Father of all men, if we refuse to behave like brothers towards some of the men who are created in the image of God”  .
Various questions, however, impose themselves: how do we guard each other in the one human family? How to nourish a non-theoretical brotherhood that translates into authentic fraternity? How can the inclusion of the other over exclusion prevail in the name of one’s belonging? How, in short, can religions be channels of brotherhood rather than separation barriers?
The human family and the courage of otherness
If we believe in the existence of the human family, it follows that it, as such, must be preserved. As in every family, this takes place primarily through a daily and effective dialogue. It presupposes one’s own identity, which one must not abdicate to please the other. But at the same time he asks the courage of otherness , which involves full recognition of the other and his freedom, and the consequent commitment to spend me because his fundamental rights are always affirmed, everywhere and by anyone. Because without freedom we are no longer children of the human family, but slaves. Among the freedoms I would like to emphasize the religious one. It is not limited to just freedom of worship, but sees in the other truly a brother, a child of my own humanity that God leaves free and that therefore no human institution can force, not even in his name.
Dialogue and prayer
The courage of otherness is the soul of dialogue , which is based on the sincerity of intentions. Dialogue is in fact compromised by fiction, which increases distance and suspicion: one can not proclaim brotherhood and then act in the opposite direction. According to a modern writer, “who lies to himself and listens to his own lies, he reaches the point where he can no longer distinguish the truth, either within himself or around him, and so he begins to no longer esteem or himself. , neither of the others ”  .
In all this prayer is indispensable: while it embodies the courage of otherness in regard to God, in the sincerity of intention, it purifies the heart from withdrawal to itself. Prayer made with the heart is replenishing of fraternity. Therefore, “as for the future of interreligious dialogue, the first thing we must do is pray. And pray for one another: we are brothers! Without the Lord, nothing is possible; with him, everything becomes! May our prayer – each according to his own tradition – fully adhere to the will of God, who desires that all men recognize themselves as brothers and live as such, forming the great human family in the harmony of diversity ”  .
There is no alternative: either we will build the future together or there will be no future. Religions, in particular, can not renounce the urgent task of building bridges between peoples and cultures. The time has come when religions are more actively spent, with courage and audacity, without pretense, to help the human family to mature the capacity for reconciliation, the vision of hope and the concrete itineraries of peace.
Education and justice
So we return to the initial image of the dove of peace. Even peace, to take flight, needs wings that support it. The wings of education and justice.
Education – in Latin means extracting, pulling out – is bringing to light the precious resources of the soul. It is comforting to note that in this country it is not only invested in the extraction of the earth’s resources, but also on those of the heart, on the education of young people. It is a commitment that I hope will continue and spread elsewhere. Even education takes place in the relationship, in reciprocity. At the famous ancient maxim ” know yourself ” we must support ” know your brother “: his history, his culture and his faith, because there is no real knowledge of himself without the other. As men, and even more as brothers, let us remind each other that nothing of what is human can remain foreign to us . It is important for the future to form open identities capable of overcoming the temptation to fall back on oneself and to become rigid.
Investing in culture promotes a decrease in hatred and a growth of civilization and prosperity. Education and violence are inversely proportional. Catholic institutions – well appreciated in this country and in the region – promote such education for peace and mutual understanding to prevent violence.
Young people, often surrounded by negative messages and fake news , need to learn not to yield to the seductions of materialism, hatred and prejudices; learn to react to injustice and also to the painful experiences of the past; learn to defend the rights of others with the same vigor with which they defend their rights. One day they will judge us: well, if we have given them solid foundations to create new meetings of civilization; bad, if we have left them only mirages and the desolate prospect of harmful conflicts of incivility.
Justice is the second wing of peace, which is often not compromised by individual episodes, but is slowly devoured by the cancer of injustice.
Therefore, one can not believe in God and not try to live justice with everyone, according to the golden rule: “Whatever you want men to do to you, you too should do it to them: this is in fact the Law and the Prophets “( Mt 7:12).
Peace and justice are inseparable! The prophet Isaiah says: “Practicing justice will give peace” (32,17). Peace dies when it divorces from justice, but justice is false if it is not universal. A justice addressed only to family members, compatriots, believers of the same faith is a limping justice, it is a disguised injustice!
Religions also have the task of remembering that the greed of profit makes the heart inert and that the laws of the current market, demanding everything immediately, do not help the meeting, dialogue, family, essential dimensions of life that need of time and patience. Religions are the voice of the last, which are not statistics but brothers, and stand on the side of the poor; veglino as sentinels of fraternity in the night of conflict, be vigilant calls because humanity does not close its eyes in the face of injustice and never resign itself to too many dramas in the world.
The desert that blooms
After having spoken of the brotherhood as an ark of peace , I would now like to draw inspiration from a second image, that of the desert , which envelops us.
Here, in a few years, with farsightedness and wisdom, the desert has been transformed into a prosperous and hospitable place; the desert has become, from an impervious and inaccessible obstacle, a meeting place between cultures and religions. Here the desert has flourished, not just for a few days a year, but for many years to come. This country, in which sand and skyscrapers meet, continues to be an important crossroads between the West and the East, between North and South of the planet, a place of development , where once inhospitable spaces reserve jobs for people of various nations.
Even development, however, has its adversaries. And if the enemy of the brotherhood was individualism, I would like to point out as an obstacle to development indifference, which ends up converting the flourishing realities into deserted lands. In fact, a purely utilitarian development does not give real and lasting progress. Only an integral and cohesive development has a future worthy of man. Indifference prevents seeing the human community beyond gains and brother beyond the work it does. Indifference, in fact, does not look to the future; he does not care about the future of creation, he does not care about the dignity of the stranger and the future of children.
In this context, I rejoice that the first Forum of the Inter-religious Alliance for Safer Communities, on the issue of the dignity of the child in the digital age, took place right here in Abu Dhabi last November. This event gathered the message launched a year earlier in Rome in the International Congress on the same subject, to which I had given my full support and encouragement. I therefore thank all the leaders who are committed in this field and I assure the support, solidarity and my participation of the Catholic Church in this very important cause of the protection of minors in all its expressions.
Here, in the desert, a path of fertile development has opened up which, starting from work, offers hope to many people of various peoples, cultures and creeds. Among them, also many Christians, whose presence in the region dates back centuries, have found opportunities and made a significant contribution to the growth and well-being of the country. In addition to professional skills, they bring you the genuineness of their faith. The respect and tolerance they encounter, as well as the necessary places of worship where they pray, allow them that spiritual maturation which then benefits society as a whole. I encourage you to continue on this path, so that those who live here or are passing through preserve not only the image of the great works built up in the desert, but of a nation that includes and embraces all.
It is with this spirit that, not only here, but in all the beloved and neuralgic Middle Eastern region, I hope concrete opportunities for meeting: society where people of different religions have the same right of citizenship and where violence alone, in all its forms, this right is removed.
A fraternal coexistence based on education and justice; a human development, built on welcoming inclusion and on the rights of all: these are seeds of peace, which religions are called to sprout. To them, perhaps as never before, in this delicate historical situation, it is a task that can no longer be postponed: to actively contribute to demilitarizing the human heart . The arms race, the extension of its zones of influence, the aggressive policies to the detriment of the others will never bring stability. War can not create anything but misery, weapons nothing but death!
The human brotherhood demands from us, representatives of religions, the duty to banish every nuance of approval from the word war. Return it to its miserable rawness. Under our eyes are its nefarious consequences. I am thinking in particular of Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Libya. Together, brothers in the only human family desired by God, let us commit ourselves against the logic of armed power, against the monetization of relations, the armaments of borders, the raising of walls, the gagging of the poor; to all this we oppose the sweet power of prayer and daily commitment to dialogue. Our being together today is a message of trust, an encouragement to all men of good will, because they do not surrender to the floods of violence and the desertification of altruism. God is with the man who seeks peace. And from heaven he blesses every step which, on this path, is accomplished on the earth.
 Message for the celebration of the World Day of Peace 1 January 2015 , 2.
 See Discourse to the participants in the International Conference for Peace , Al-Azhar Conference Center, Cairo, April 28, 2017.
 FM Dostoevskij, The brothers Karamazov , II, 2, Milan 2012, 60.
 See Terence, Heautontimorumenos I, 1, 25.