. TOLERANCE & SOLIDARITY .
An article from the United Nations
The declaration “Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” — co-authored by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed Al-Tayeb — is a model for compassion and human solidarity, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres told the Security Council today, as speakers warned against a groundswell of xenophobia, racism and intolerance, anti-Muslim hatred, virulent antisemitism and attacks on minority Christian communities.
Pope Francis and Ahmed el-Tayeb sign the Document on Human Fraternity
António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that hatred of the other is a common denominator to the escalation of conflict and a conduit for atrocity crimes. Today, “social media has equipped hatemongers with a global bullhorn for bile”, and unverified assertions or outright lies are placed on an equal footing with facts and science. Hate-fuelled language is moving from the margins to the mainstream, triggering real-life violence, he observed, noting that in Myanmar, social media has been exploited to demonize the Rohingya minority, inciting attacks and violence. In Iraq, the recent proliferation of hate speech targeting Yazidis in Sinjar has stoked fears among the community that it will once again be the target of atrocity crimes.
Accordingly, he outlined concrete measures to make the digital space more inclusive and safer, including through the Global Digital Compact for an open, free, inclusive and secure digital future for all. Calling for a surge in education financing, peacebuilding and global solidarity, he said that the values of compassion, respect and human fraternity are “our best antidote to the poison of discord and division”. He further emphasized that it is the duty of religious leaders to prevent instrumentalization of hatred amidst their followers.
Ahmed Al-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Al-Sharif and Chairman of the Muslim Council of Elders, rejected claims that Islam is a religion of the sword or war, insisting that war is only acceptable for self-defence. Urging the international community to move away from pointless conflicts, he noted tragedies caused by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Syria, Libya and Yemen, ancient civilizations have been destroyed, and these lands have become battlegrounds forcing their people to flee. Highlighting efforts made by religious leaders to promote human fraternity, he said Al-Azhar Al-Sharif aims to identify shared responsibilities in addressing climate change and the escalating wars.
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How can different faiths work together for understanding and harmony?
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“It seems […] that we are going backwards in history, with the rise of myopic, extremist, resentful and aggressive nationalisms that have kindled conflicts which are not only anachronistic and outdated, but even more violent,” said Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States for the Observer State of the Holy See, speaking on behalf of Pope Francis. Today’s globalized world is experiencing the famine of fraternity, whose worst effect is armed conflict and war, he said, adding that to make peace a reality, the international community “must move away from the logic of the legitimacy of war”. There is still time to write a new chapter of peace in history, he said.
In the ensuing debate, speakers underscored that human fraternity can help build a better world and advance peace, recognizing the significant role of community and religious leaders in cultivating tolerance.
The representative of the United Arab Emirates said the world is facing the highest number of armed conflicts since the Second World War, with 2 billion people living in places affected by conflict, while extremism has become a tool for inciting violence. Spotlighting the challenges experienced by the Arab region, she drew attention to a draft resolution — submitted to the Council by her country and the United Kingdom — which seeks to address the threats of hate speech, racism and other forms of extremism in conflict situations.
Echoing his support for the draft, the speaker for the United Kingdom underscored that religious minorities have time and again been targeted in conflict, including the Yazidis in Iraq, the Rohingya in Myanmar and the Baha’i in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. Religious communities and leaders can play a unique role in conflict prevention, reconciliation and peacebuilding initiatives, including at the grassroots level, where inter-religious and intercultural dialogue can help build trust between communities, he said.
Adding to that, Mozambique’s delegate emphasized that places of worship such as churches, mosques and synagogues should not be used as incubators of religious extremists or as battlefields. Instead, they must be used for the purpose of peace and human fraternity. Dialogue plays a key role in reversing this dangerous trend, she observed, noting the importance of peacebuilding mechanisms in addressing intolerance, hate speech, racism and other manifestations of extremism.
The universal premise of achieving a culture of peace seems to be increasingly distant, cautioned the representative of Ecuador, pointing to the unprecedented number of displaced persons, the devastation caused by natural hazards and the resurgence of hate speech. Focusing on the roots of conflicts and the adoption of timely prevention measures is key to sustain the peacebuilding agenda, he said, highlighting the potential of preventive diplomacy to avoid escalations in violence.
For his part, China’s delegate rejected the concept of superior or inferior civilizations and cited attempts to transform or replace other civilizations as “disastrous” when applied to practice. Specifically, he recalled that white supremacy wreaked devastation in Asia and Africa. Nonetheless, he pointed to encouraging developments in the Middle East, including the resumption of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran — an outcome of the Beijing dialogue — setting off reconciliation in the region. Also, he said that developments such as Syria’s return to the League of Arab States inject positive energy into the unity of regional countries.