WAAG UK welcomes landmark conference with Vice-President of WAAG UK also in attendance
The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Dr Ahmad Al-Tayyeb Shaykh al-Azhar, received Pope Francis, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, at Al-Azhar headquarters on Friday 28 April 2017 after the pope participated in the Al-Azhar International Peace Conference. In his speech, the Grand Imam welcomed Pope Francis and thanked him for accepting Al-Azhar’s invitation to attend the conference.
“There is no acceptable reason for the existence of all crises that the world is facing but arms trade and its marketing,” the Grand Imam said, adding that such business will guarantee the survival of arms factories as well as continue to embolden individuals through reckless arms deals. He continued to wonder how such business could be taking place in the 21st century, which he described as the ‘the century of technological progress, peace institutions, and security councils’ and of humanistic philosophy and social ideologies. “The central question is: how has international peace become the lost paradise? The answer is modern civilisation’s ignorance to the Abrahamic religions and their values, such as brotherhood and recognition,” he said. The Grand Imam believes that the solution is to raise awareness of religions, and that the world is now ready for religions to take its role in promoting the values of peace, justice, equality, and respecting humanity, regardless of religion, race, colour, and language. “And before this, we have to clarify the image of religions, of misunderstandings, and of wrong beliefs, and not accuse religions of crimes of some frivolous believers in any religion,” he added. “Islam is not a religion of terrorism because of the misconceptions of some of its believers who commit murder and crimes, and who have found people who will provide them with money, training, and arms,” the Grand Imam said. He added that Christianity is not a religion of terrorism because some of its believers held the cross and killed innocent men, women, and children; and Judaism is not a terroristic religion because of occupying Palestine while implementing Moses’ teachings. Also the European civilisation is not a terroristic civilisation, he said.
The Grand Imam appreciated the Pope’s statements that defended Islam and Muslims and denied accusations of terrorism, expressing Al-Azhar’s desire to cooperate in deepening ‘the philosophy of common life, dialogue, and respecting different beliefs’.
Speaking to the conference, Pope Francis recalled that Egypt’s ancient civilisations valued the quest for knowledge and open-minded education, and that a similar commitment is required today to combat the ‘barbarity’ of religious extremism among the young. “As religious leaders, we are called to unmask violence that masquerades as purported sanctity,” Pope Francis said to applause from the audience. “Let us say once more, a firm and clear ‘No’ to every form of violence, vengeance and hatred carried out in the name of religion or in the name of God.” “To counter effectively the barbarity of those who foment hatred with violence, we need to accompany young people, helping them on the path to maturity and teaching them to respond to the incendiary logic of evil by patiently working for the growth of goodness,” he said.
Pope Francis also called for an end to the flow of weapons and money to militants, saying that ‘only by bringing into the light of day the murky manoeuvrings that feed the cancer of war can its real causes be prevented’.
In attendance at the conference was the Vice-President of the UK Branch of the World Association for Al-Azhar Graduates, Bakhtyar Pirzada al-Azhari, who said: “Today’s conference at Al-Azhar – being the highest seat of Islamic learning in the world for centuries –demonstrates to the world that Islam, and all religions for that matter, cannot be equated with violence as a result of the actions of a few individuals. The world of Islamic scholarship and leadership stands tall in expressing the genuineness of Islam’s inherent message of peace and moderation. With the visit and embrace of Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, the message of a peaceful coexistence and of common humanity and dignity goes out to the whole world loud and clear. This is indeed a significant step forward whereby senior representatives of the two largest religions in the world meet to promote common values and a peaceful coexistence in a world filled with chaos and confusion. We wholeheartedly welcome this initiative.”