Dr Ahmad al-Tayyeb Shaykh al-Azhar addresses the Third World Forum, holds talks with the Pope and meets the Prime Minister
During the first week of November 2017, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Dr Ahmad al-Tayyeb Shaykh al-Azhar, travelled to Italy for some important engagements which included his noteworthy address at the Third World Forum, holding talks with Pope Francis at the Vatican and meeting the Prime Minister of Italy, Paolo Gentiloni. Summary of his visit are as follows:
– Grand Imam with Pope Francis
The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Dr Ahmad al-Tayyeb Shaykh al-Azhar, met with Pope Francis on Tuesday 7 November at the Vatican in Rome, where he vowed greater cooperation between the two leaders to fight terrorism.
Earlier in April 2017, the Pope – who is spiritual leader of the world’s almost 1.3 billion Catholics –became the first Pope to visit the Grand Imam in Egypt, where he attended the International Peace Conference which was chaired by the Grand Imam and held at the Al-Azhar University.
After his meeting with the Pope on Tuesday, the Grand Imam said that Islam was facing ‘a war against itself,’ and stressed that Muslims too were ‘victims of terrorism.’ The Grand Imam stated: “It (terrorism) is a cancer which has metastasized to different parts of the world,” and Al-Azhar University as Egypt’s highest institution of Sunni Islam “is offering its resources and a greater contribution for a permanent collaboration aimed at finding solutions to terrorism,” he told a meeting organized by the Sant’Egidio, a Christian community officially recognized by the Vatican.
The Grand Imam also said: “We discussed (at the meeting) several issues tormenting the world and we sought to find ways together to reduce the suffering of the poor and the unfortunate.” The Grand Imam said that the Pope ‘has a heart filled with love and a desire that humanity benefits from intercultural exchanges’.
Pope Francis added that he is observing the role of Al-Azhar in promoting peace, dialogue, coexistence and its efforts in fighting deviated thought, stressing that Al-Azhar’s role at this particular moment is very crucial.
– Grand Imam on ‘East and West: Towards a Civilizational Dialogue’
The participants at the Third World Forum, titled ‘East and West: Towards a Civilizational Dialogue’, held in Rome, the capital of Italy, stressed the need to support the civilizational dialogue, which calls for spreading the values of love, tolerance and coexistence. This came during a panel discussion entitled ‘Religions and the National State’, which was held at the Apostolic Chancellery in Rome in the presence of a number of prominent religious, political and intellectual leaders from the East and the West.
The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Dr. Ahmad Al-Tayyeb Shaykh al-Azhar, delivered an important speech at the opening of the conference. He stressed that religions cannot be the cause of human misery. Al-Azhar and the Council of Muslim Elders are ready to offer all their experience to promote the idea of world peace and co-existence. The Grand Imam also held a meeting with Pope Francis, during which he discussed ways to coordinate efforts to spread a culture of coexistence and peace, renounce violence, hatred, intolerance and Islamophobia, and support the poor and the weak.
Dr. Mahmoud Hamdi Zaqzouq, member of the Al-Azhar Supreme Council of Senior Scholars and the Council of Muslim Elders, said during his speech at the opening of the forum that the fruits of Al-Azhar’s contacts with the Vatican and the Pontifical Council for Interfaith Dialogue had a positive reaction in various parts of the world, adding that there is no doubt that such meetings, including today’s meeting, will pave the way for more mutual understanding and constructive cooperation to serve world peace.
– Grand Imam with Prime Minister Gentiloni
On Wednesday 8 November, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Dr Ahmad al-Tayyeb Shaykh al-Azhar, offered the support of Al-Azhar to Italy in a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, in combating terrorism, by offering correction for extremist and false thoughts in different languages.
In his meeting with the Italian Prime Minister, held at the Italian Presidency of the Council of Ministers headquarter in Rome, the Grand Imam discussed means of coordinating efforts between Al-Azhar and Italy to spread a culture of coexistence and peace and to denounce violence and Islamophobia.
The Grand Imam said: “We are keen on achieving peace for all people through working with Pope Francis of the Vatican on humanitarian issues, as we find a great common thinking in our viewpoints and we agreed upon implementing joint work plans.”
The Italian Prime Minister expressed his recognition for the great role played by the Grand Imam in combating terrorism and spreading a culture of dialogue within religions in order to enhance Islam. The Prime Minister also praised the strong cooperative relation between the Shaykh of Al-Azhar and the Pope of the Vatican, especially on cherishing issues related to weak, poor, and needy people.