For decades, the East and the Arab world in particular have been portrayed in western media as regions plagued by religious intolerance and persecution. However, religions were certainly not the main cause of this negative image as much as political agendas were.
Ever since the conflict over power of the Middle East arose between rival empires, these forces exploited religion to push their political projects. Neither religions nor their sacred texts sowed the seeds of such conflict or fuelled it. There is clear historical evidence that supports religions’ innocence in this, as there were many places where tolerance and coexistence between religions prevailed.
From this standpoint, the call for ”human fraternity” has emerged from Abu Dhabi, where the Document on Human Fraternity was co-signed in 2019 by two great religious figures: Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed Al Tayeb. The call to human fraternity is a purely humanitarian one – without any ideological orientations or political calculations – and is addressed to all humanity: believers and non-believers alike.
Based on such call, the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity (HCHF) was formed as an independent international body based in the UAE to serve as the executive arm of the document. The committee comprises a wide range of intellectuals, diplomats and peace advocates from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds.
In response to this global initiative promoting fraternity and coexistence, a false and disparaging narrative has recently emerged claiming that there are attempts to create a new religion dubbed “the Abrahamic Religion”.
Those who promote such ill-intended and groundless thoughts try to associate this so-called effort to foster “one religion” with the Abrahamic Family House initiative, currently under construction in Abu Dhabi and under the guidance of the HCHF.
The interfaith complex will host three separate houses of worship: a Christian church, Islamic mosque and Jewish synagogue – as well as an educational centre unaffiliated with any specific religion.
Some websites and social media – in the western and Arab worlds – have taken aim at this noble project by falsely asserting that the initiative is an attempt to merge all the Abrahamic faiths and promote “one world religion”. Some have even labelled our project a “Chrislam” venture (an idiom blending the names of Christianity and Islam in a manner that denigrates both faiths).
This criticism could not be farther from the truth. The Abrahamic Family House is a symbol of the appreciation of religious diversity and unique character of each religion – it is not an effort to diminish religious differences or water down the uniqueness of each religion.
In the complex, a visitor enters the area in which the houses of worship have been built, to see three freestanding buildings, which serve to remind humanity that the Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths all sprouted out of the same soil. The buildings are like three different trees in one forest, which all reach up to the same nourishing light.
Each house of worship will reflect the distinctive character of each respective religion. Religious services will be held in each sacred space and the unique character of each religion will be preserved and promoted.
We acknowledge that religions share common values such as peace, tolerance, justice and love. The Abrahamic Family House highlights the importance of promoting these values among religious worshippers and also recognises that these common principles do not take away from the particularity and richness of each faith on its own and each faith’s impact, traditions or rituals.
The HCHF was previously subject to such accusations about starting a “one world religion” amid the first stage of the Covid-19 pandemic. This was when it launched the “Pray for Humanity” campaign, calling on believers of all religions to join in a global prayer to ask God to end the pandemic, help those working in the medical community, and guide scientists to find the necessary vaccines. The allegation at the time was that our call was to invent a prayer bringing Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and other faith followers together to pave the way for a “new religion” subsuming them all. Despite these false allegations, on the day of the prayer, millions of people worldwide responded to the call positively. Each prayed according to their own beliefs, rituals, sacred texts, and in their own languages. No common texts or rituals were provided, only the timing and purpose of the prayer.
The Grand Imam of Al Azhar recently answered critics when he said: “Those who falsely portray interfaith fraternity as mixing Judaism, Christianity and Islam into one ‘Abrahamic’ religion are violating the most precious right humanity possess: freedom of belief.”
The human fraternity mission for the Abrahamic Family House is to serve as an example of religion and as an inspiration for good and harmony, instead of hate, discrimination and destruction.
We aspire to promote peaceful coexistence that fosters fraternity regardless of faith, ethnic and cultural differences. This aspiration is turning into a global movement to promote human fraternity, and it will transcend any obstacles and attempts to tarnish its noble humanitarian goals.