A look back: The formation of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity

The committee's leaders are tasked with promoting a message of global unity

Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan (L) watches as Pope Francis (C) and Egypt's Azhar Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb sign documents during the Human Fraternity Meeting at the Founders Memorial in Abu Dhabi on February 4, 2019. Pope Francis rejected "hatred and violence" in the name of God, on the first visit by the head of the Catholic church to the Muslim-majority Arabian Peninsula. / AFP / Vincenzo PINTO
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When the UAE played host to His Holiness Pope Francis in February, it marked a number of historic moments for the country.

Not only was it the first time a Pope had visited the Arabian peninsula, it also saw two of the world’s most prominent religious leaders come together to launch the Document of Human Fraternity.

Against the backdrop of the Founder’s Memorial in Abu Dhabi, Pope Francis and Dr Ahmed Al-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar, endorsed the agreement in the presence of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid.

Described as a blueprint to help future generations advance a culture of global mutual respect, they pledged to work together to spread the message of peaceful coexistence.

It was a powerful moment. Two leaders of different faiths coming together in a Muslim country to promote universal peace.

And following on from the signing, UAE leaders have since formed a committee dedicated to spreading its message.

The Higher Committee of Human Fraternity will develop a framework to ensure the objectives of the document are implemented both regionally and internationally.

Made up of religious, educational and cultural leaders from around the world, the newly-formed eight member executive faces a substantial task.

The board includes those from the UAE, Spain, Italy, Egypt and the US, and will expand to incorporate leaders of other denominations and beliefs in the coming years.

Members of the higher committee include Miguel Guixot, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue of the Holy See, who has been appointed the role of chairman, as well as Judge Mohamed Abdel Salam, Advisor to the Grand Imam, who acts as committee secretary.

Other members are Professor Mohamed Mahrasawi, President of Al-Azhar University; Monsignor Yoannis Gaid, Personal Secretary of Pope Francis; Mohamed Al Mubarak, Chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi; Dr Sultan Al Rumaithi, Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Elders; Yasser Al Muhairi, an Emirati writer, and Rabbi Bruce Lustig, a Senior Rabbi at Washington Hebrew Congregation.

To commemorate Pope Francis’ visit to the UAE, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince and Depute Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces,  ordered the construction of a building dedicated to inter-faith harmony.

Named the Abrahamic Family House, after Abraham, the revered prophet in Islam, Judasim and Christianity, Sheikh Mohamed said the new landmark would “symbolise the state of coexistence and human fraternity” in the UAE.

It will consist of a mosque, church, synagogue and educational centre to be built on Saadiyat Island, the cultural heart of Abu Dhabi.

In recent years, the UAE has made considerable efforts to promote religious tolerance in the country.

In June, the first multi-faith prayer room at Abu Dhabi International Airport was opened to provide passengers of all faiths a quiet space to practice their religion.

The country also boasts more than 40 churches of different Christian denominations, as well as Sikh and Hindu temples.