Pope and other religious leaders hail Human Fraternity document at Kazakh summit

Created in Abu Dhabi three years ago, the document pledges interfaith dialogue and peace

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Faith leaders have urged governments and their leaders to end violence and work towards greater understanding between religions.

At an interfaith event in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, Pope Francis and the leaders of major religions called for an end to warfare and bloodshed.

The Pope warned of the “baneful domino effect” that modern wars have on the delicate world order.

In our day, every military conflict or hotspot of tension and confrontation will necessarily have a baneful 'domino effect' and seriously compromise the system of international relations
Pope Francis

The Document on Human Fraternity, signed by Pope Francis and Dr Ahmed Al Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar and Chairman of the Muslim Council of Elders, during the pontiff's visit to Abu Dhabi in 2019, was held up as an example of “great historical significance” by Kazakhstan's President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev at the start of the two-day conference.

The final communique on Thursday recognised its “importance and value” in calling for “peace, dialogue, mutual understanding and mutual respect among believers for the common good.”

In a speech, the Pope again warned that religion is all too often hijacked for personal or ideological gain.

“After the events of 11 September 2001, it was necessary to respond collectively to the incendiary atmosphere that terrorist violence sought to incite, and which threatened to turn religion into a grounds for conflict,” he said, according to an official Vatican News report.

“Pseudo-religious terrorism, extremism, radicalism and nationalism, dressed up in religious garb, nonetheless continue to foment fears and concerns about religion. In these days, then, it proved providential that we could come together once more, in order to reaffirm the authentic and inalienable essence of religion.”

He added: “In our day, every military conflict or hotspot of tension and confrontation will necessarily have a baneful 'domino effect' and seriously compromise the system of international relations.”

The Grand Imam described the world as a “sick patient in desperate need of treatment”.

'Arrogant policies shaking the global economy'

Dr Al Tayeb said the world was recovering from the pandemic but was being “overwhelmed by other pandemics and disasters: natural, political and economic ones caused by people, with their selfishness, ambitions and guilty conscience.”

He said humanity was suffering “because of sudden changes in nature and climate”, noting rising temperatures and sea levels, flooding and wildfires reported around the world.

“We have recently been affected by arrogant policies that are shaking the pillars of the global economy, throwing rich and poor countries alike into severe and unexpected turmoils, affecting people’s livelihoods, not to mention terrifying, killing or displacing innocent people.”

“These disasters are the work of our fellow human beings … out of indifference to others.”

He said part of the problem was that modern civilisation had cast aside the positive teachings of religion, which had led to “the sanctification of a market culture [capitalism], an abundance of production, and greedy consumption.”

The solution, he said, was to promote peace among all people and to encourage a return to faith, arguing that individualism prevented people from caring for their communities. “What I am calling for is to take serious actions to promote the mutual values between religions, particularly civilised acquaintance, mutual respect and peaceful coexistence.”

The main reason for the Pope's visit was to address the Seventh Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, a meeting that brings together Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and many other, mostly smaller, faiths.

The Congress's final declaration, approved by a majority of participants, spoke against “the unleashing of any military conflict” but did not specifically mention the Ukraine war.

About 70 per cent of Kazakhs are Muslim and about 26 per cent Orthodox Christians. There are only about 125,000 Catholics among the 19 million population of the vast Central Asian country.

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Updated: September 15, 2022, 5:19 PM