Pope, grand imam make call for peace at UN Security Council

Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, grand imam of Al-Azhar, address UN meeting on need for ‘human fraternity’.

Pope Francis receives a gift from Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayeb Sheikh of Al-Azhar during a private audience at the Vatican November 15, 2019. Alberto Pizzoli/Pool via REUTERS
Pope Francis, right, receives a gift from Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb of Al-Azhar, left, during a private audience at the Vatican in 2019 [File: Alberto Pizzoli/pool via Reuters]

Pope Francis and a leading Sunni imam have made calls for peace at the United Nations Security Council in New York where discussion focused on the importance of “human fraternity”.

The pope, who is in hospital recovering from abdominal surgery, sent a statement to the UN meeting on Wednesday in which he said that a third world war is being fought “piecemeal” and that humanity is suffering from a “famine of fraternity”.

Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of Al-Azhar, the 1,000-year-old seat of Sunni learning in Cairo, said in a virtual briefing to the UN council that human fraternity was the key to global peace, a point he and the pope had made in a joint document released in 2019.

“In our own day, with nuclear weapons and those of mass destruction, the battlefield has become practically unlimited, and the effects potentially catastrophic,” the pope said in his statement, which was read by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican’s secretary for relations with states and international organisations.

“The time has come to say an emphatic “no” to war, to state that wars are not just, but only peace is just,” the pontiff added in the statement.

Al-Tayeb said his intention in speaking to the council was to urge an end to senseless wars. He cited Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and Yemen.

The grand imam also called on the council to recognise an independent Palestinian state after 75 years.

Without naming either Russia or Ukraine, the grand imam said the war unfolding on the eastern borders of Europe had instilled terror and “concern that it may regress humanity to a primitive era”.

“Our gathering today is not a luxury but a necessity, dictated by concern for the future of humanity,” al-Tayeb said.

The grand imam said the mission pursued by Al-Azhar and the Roman Catholic Church in the 2019 document on human fraternity for world peace must be pursued by political leaders.

The United Arab Emirates chose the importance of human fraternity in bringing peace as a centrepiece of its presidency of the council this month.


After the appeals by the pope and grand imam and council speeches, members adopted a resolution recognising that hate speech, racism, xenophobia, intolerance, gender discrimination and acts of extremism “can contribute to driving the outbreak, escalation and recurrence of conflict”.

The resolution, co-sponsored by the UAE and the United Kingdom, was adopted unanimously even though some of the council’s 15 members have been accused of some of the same actions they condemned.

UAE Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh told The Associated Press after the vote that it was a “landmark” resolution that for the first time brings together previous council resolutions addressing hate speech, racism, incitement and extremism in different ways.

Nusseibeh said it promotes tolerance, equality, coexistence and dialogue.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the declaration by the pope and the grand imam “a model for compassion and human solidarity” and urged countries and people everywhere “to stand together as one human family” and forge “an alliance of peace, rooted in the values of human fraternity”.

Source: Al Jazeera, The Associated Press