“There is no alternative: We either build the future together or there will not be a future,” Pope Francis said frankly in an important keynote address to participants at the high-level inter-religious meeting in Abu Dhabi on Feb. 4.
“Religions, in particular, cannot renounce the urgent task of building bridges between peoples and cultures,” he told the 700 representatives of Islam, Christianity, Judaism and other religions at an open-air gathering at the memorial to the founding father of the United Arab Emirates.
“The time has come when religions should more actively exert themselves, with courage and audacity and without pretense, to help the human family deepen the capacity for reconciliation, the vision of hope and the concrete paths of peace,” Pope Francis said.
Pope Francis and Ahmed el-Tayeb, the grand imam of Egypt’s Al-Azhar, the highest seat of learning in Sunni Islam, put those words into action, using the opportunity of the pope’s historic visit to sign a statement expressing their hopes for world peace and human understanding. The document describes itself as being in the name of “all victims of wars, persecution and injustice and those tortured in any part of the world, without distinction.” It decries modern “signs of a ‘third world war being fought piecemeal,’” a phrase Pope Francis has often used in his many condemnations of contemporary conflict.