Pope Francis and Al Azhar Grand Imam honour Zayed Fraternity Award winners in Abu Dhabi ceremony

Virtual event held at Founders Memorial in show of peaceful coexistence, dialogue and human fraternity

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Religious leaders from around the world united in a virtual ceremony in Abu Dhabi on Thursday to honour the winners of the Zayed Fraternity Award.

Pope Francis and Dr Ahmed Al Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar, took part in a moving event advocated for peaceful coexistence, dialogue and human fraternity.

The ceremony kicked off with multicultural an orchestra playing their instruments in the gardens surrounding the memorial to the country's founding father.

Messages of peace were heard from the two religious leaders with the Holy See saying fraternity was the new frontier of humanity.

"Either we are brothers or we destroy ourselves. It is the challenge of our century; the challenge of our time. Human Fraternity means respect, to listen with an open heart, and to have strength in our principles," said Pope Francis.

Either we are brothers or we destroy ourselves. It is the challenge of our century

“Born from the same father, with different cultures and traditions, we are all still brothers; and respecting our different cultures and traditions, our different citizenships, we must build this fraternity not negotiate it. It is time to listen and for sincere acceptance.”

He said there was no time for indifference because "indifference is a subtle form of enmity. We do not have to be at war to be enemies. Disregarding each other is enough."

Dr Al Tayeb described Thursday's ceremony as a historic event, born two years ago when the Document for Human Fraternity was signed in Abu Dhabi as a call to mankind to end war, promote tolerance and the rejection of hatred.

"I am hopeful that February 4 each year will be an alarm bell for the world and its leaders and urge them to entrench the principles of human fraternity and I have no doubt this document to be applied in reality needs determination and the firm believe that people are all brothers who have the right to peace and safety and whatever diversity is between them is in God's creation."

Dr Al Tayeb pledged the remainder of his life to working with Pope Francis and scholars of every religion to make the principles of human fraternity a reality around the world.

The two also thanked Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, for his sponsorship and support for human fraternity.

Sheikh Mohamed later said he spoke with both to discuss the importance of the Document on Human Fraternity, given the many challenges facing humanity. "The UAE values and supports peaceful coexistence between all people," said Sheikh Mohamed.

Dr Al Tayeb and Pope Francis also paid tribute to this year's winners of the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity: Moroccan-French activist, Latifa Ibn Ziaten, and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who will share a $1 million prize to invest in their initiatives.

Presented by Michaelle Jean, former governor-general of Canada, the ceremony was pre-filmed using individual recordings from members of the Higher Committee for Human Fraternity to prevent gathering people together.

Ms Ibn Ziaten was honoured for dedicating her life to combating religious extremism – a cause she took on after her son, Imad, was killed in a terrorist attack in 2012.

She established the Imad Association, which seeks to work with families and communities to prevent youth radicalisation and spread the message of peace and mutual respect. She does this by visiting low-income neighbourhoods, prisons and mosques.

On receiving the award she said the money would help further that cause.

"I lost a son but today I will be able to reach more children. Today I am a second mother to the many children I have saved from detention centres, schools and homes so that they don't fall prey to terrorism. For us to gather and spread the message of love and peace is very important. I cant express my gratitude and happiness today – this pain in me over the loss of my son will never heal but like I tell every child, if we can break the barriers in our hearts then we will find our place in society and we will all be brothers."

Mr Guterres was chosen by a panel of six judges for working to further world peace and security since being named Secretary-General of the UN over the past four years.

Some of the key initiatives he spearheaded during his tenure include countering hate speech and violence, modernising UN peacekeeping practices, and the Global Ceasefire Appeal and Initiative during the Covid-19 pandemic.