Vicar of Arabia sees fraternity as a guide for ‘lasting peace’ also in the Gulf
On Pope Francis and Imam al-Tayeb issue another plead, Bishop Hinder looks at the tensions that still inflame the region. Ending conflicts remains a “long journey” amid an emerging feeling of “vulnerability”. The Document on Human Fraternity is an “important reference point" for people in power.
Abu Dhabi (AsiaNews) – The war in Yemen and other Mideast tensions remind us of the “long journey” still ahead to reach a “lasting peace”, this according to Bishop Paul Hinder, vicar of southern Arabia[*] and apostolic administrator sede vacante of northern Arabia[†].
At the same time, we are at great risk of forgetting the “highest principles” when the logic “of economic and political power” prevails, he said, speaking on the occasion of the second United Nations International Day of Human Fraternity, which is celebrated today.
Unable to hide the feeling of extreme “vulnerability” that pervades even the most important cities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), threatened by Houthi rockets and drones, the prelate believes that it is essential “to find a way out of the vicious circle of attacks and counterattacks”.
“From this perspective, the Document on Human Fraternity[‡] offers some valid guidelines.” However, “it is clear that any sign of vulnerability and real dangers has its effects on the economy and tourism.” Fortunately, “people have so far reacted in a stoic way,” convinced that the UAE will be able to protect its residents.
Noting that the Gospel itself “does not exclude the possibility of conflicts,” even among Christians, the prelate is cognizant that the document signed by the pope and the imam alone cannot stop the violence. “Nevertheless, it remains an important point of reference for political decision-makers and those who hold power.”
Today marks the third anniversary of the signing of the historic document that opened new channels of dialogue and exchange with Muslims, in particular Sunnis.
The event is also being celebrated at Expo 2020. Currently underway in Dubai, the world fait was originally scheduled for October 2020-April 2021, but was later postponed because of the pandemic.
Today its agenda includes a meeting – The Human Fraternity and the Global Tolerance Alliance Roundtable – with a video message from Pope Francis and Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb of al-Azhar, part of a four-day series promoted by UAE leaders in favour of the values of tolerance and fraternity at the local and global levels.
"The visit of Pope Francis and the signing of the document on Human Fraternity together with the imam of al-Azhar are mentioned in almost every speech about relations between people of different faiths,” explained Bishop Hinder.
This said, while “interest in knowing more about others’ beliefs and life has grown,” in practice, it “is more about monitoring what happens inside our churches (especially during the pandemic) than really knowing what is at the centre of our rites.”
Because of COVID-19, many activities are still online; for this reason, events like Expo 2020 are important since they provide a forum to keep alive the spirit of “the historic visit of the pope in 2019”.
For the Church of Arabia, the signing of the document is remembered with a “Catholic heart”. Most notably, the highlight of the apostolic journey was the “Eucharistic celebration at the stadium” whose memory “is even more vivid than the signing of the document”.
The document itself retains all its importance. In fact, it has been included in the “school curriculum” for students “of different faiths”" and has inspired the creation of the Abrahamic Family House and the continuation of interfaith dialogue.
Yesterday's inauguration of the new apostolic nunciature in Abu Dhabi “is also the result of the pope's visit,” but contacts and face-to-face meetings with Muslims have been reduced in the last two years because of the pandemic.
[*] United Arab Emirates, Oman and Yemen.
[†] Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain.
[‡] Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together.