Good News: El Azhar University and Pope Francis Seeking for Dialogue and Peace in the World

In the 20th century, the world has been deeply wounded by the First and Second World Wars with all the atrocities and divisions recorded in history. From those sad experiences emerged a sign of hope – the formation of the United Nations in 1945, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, and on the part of the Catholic church, the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (1965) that helped the Church to rethink its presence in the world and to move guided by the signs of the times, reconciliation, dialogue, and peace.

The 21st century started with signs of hope that soon had been wounded by the September 11 Terror Attack in the United States, another sad development that has been characterized today by the presence of radicalism with violence that had been circulated among groups with a specific religious identity. The most alarming of these groups today is ISIS with its ideology which goes against many including some Muslim groups in the world.

El Azhar University, the most prestigious Islamic University in the world based in Egypt is alarmed by these developments and is giving positive signs leading the Islamic world towards the right direction. In this connection, we are happy to share what published few days ago to highlight the ongoing effort of El Azhar University today. The News said that:

“At the end of February a conference of international importance was held at the university Al Azhar in Cairo. It involved the political and cultural world and the representatives of the Islamic and Christian faiths of over fifty States of the Arab Muslim world.

The courageous initiative promoted by the imam of Al Azhar Ahmad al-Tayyeb openly wanted to put two delicate issues for the political governments of the Arab and Muslim world on the table for discussion: the “necessity” of the secular state, or independence from Islamic religious law, and the primacy of the principle of citizenship, which means the full equality of rights of every individual member of a State, regardless of membership of a particular religion, therefore, without any discrimination for the so-called “religious minorities” different from Islam. The revolutionary conclusions of this conference will most likely echo very significantly over time.

The two central issues arising from the conference – secular state and citizenship, that full equality of all citizens regardless of faith – are closely intertwined. They cannot be solved separately, and touch the raw nerve of the political system of the Arab world, or the subordination of civil law to religious law, Sharia law, the constitutional systems and even in the Charter of Human Rights of the Arab League and Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the two international political institutions which bring together Arab countries and the Islamic faith.

If these bold proposals for reform that have been issued by the Al-Azhar conference are to become more than mere declarations of principle, and concretely affect the political and cultural fabric of Muslim thought, then the Arab League 2004 Bill of Human Rights and the OIC Declaration on Human rights in Islam need to be thoroughly revised sooner rather than later, in order to promote the realization of ‘constitutionally’ secular states, not theocratic or otherwise dependent on the formula of ‘official State religion’.”

An additional good news that gives more strength to the effort of the El Azhar University is that this month of April, Pope Francis will visit Egypt, a country with a long history that unfortunately, in the recent years, had been tested with a lot of violence for the people in general and specifically for the Christian communities. On that occasion, Pope Francis will also visit El Azhar University. For sure, the ongoing reflection of the university with the Arabic League and the Organization of Islamic Conference will be highlighted because it is moving to the right direction of dialogue and peace in the world.

We hope that this good news will challenge many in the Philippines and other countries to find solutions of peace based on the common good in the respect and freedom of each religion. This is what Silsilah continues to share with the hope in a better future for all sustained by the Culture of Dialogue, Path to Peace.

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