Shaykh al-Azhar send important message to UNESCO Protection of Endangered Cultural Heritage conference
Grand Imam pleased by initiative that ‘seeks to repair and protect endangered cultural heritage’
The international “Safeguarding Endangered Cultural Heritage” conference aimed at protecting cultural heritage during armed conflicts took place in Abu Dhabi on 2nd and 3rd December, under the banner of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). The event was organized by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, and the French President, François Hollande. The conference brought together heads of states and ministers from over 40 countries, as well as representatives from international organizations and museums.
The conference presented the ‘Abu Dhabi declaration on the protection of endangered heritage’, which endorsed the creation of a new International Fund for the Protection of Heritage, with an initial contribution by France of $30 Million, and the objective to collect a further $100 million.
“This Fund will provide much needed resources to protect heritage under attack”, said French President Hollande. Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, said the conference “sends a powerful signal of hope, and I see this as the starting point of something larger – a new commitment for culture, education, human dignity”. Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed stated the importance of a culture to build resilient societies, saying “the world has a shared responsibility for protecting human cultural heritage”.
The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Dr Ahmad al-Tayyeb Shaykh al-Azhar, expressed his support for the conference. In a message supporting the conference, he stated that he fully appreciates ‘this initiative which incorporates the cultural meaning and human values that bring the East and the West together in a conference that seeks to repair damage caused by terrorism and extremists’. The Grand Imam further stated that ‘terrorism and extremism were seeking to eliminate cultural identity, and to erase human culture and heritage’, and the attacks against historical buildings are a ‘violation of human heritage and a crime against civilization; against which religions, traditions and common sense naturally rise’.
The Grand Imam also said that Al-Azhar University, which has taught the sciences of Islam for over a thousand years, is surrounded by the Pharaonic, Coptic and Islamic antiquities, and that history narrates that since the first Muslims came to Egypt, neither them nor those Muslim scholars who came after them attempted to cause destruction to any monument. In concluding his formal message, the Grand Imam expressed his hopes for mutual cooperation to eliminate the extremist actions that threaten human security as well as cultural and civilizational heritage.