How can people of different faiths and cultures live harmoniously?
Over the past three days, I have been at an interesting conference, more than a thousand souls descended on Abu Dhabi all aspiring peace and tolerance. Muslims, Christians, Jews and Sikhs; people of all colours, creeds and backgrounds. Read how we were figuring out to build a better world.
Human beings can be very violent, shed blood and commit massacres. However, they can be equally angelic and show acts of compassion and forgiveness that would make the angels blush. Such was the scene I witnessed at the closing ceremony of a three-day conference; this was organised by the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies in Abu Dhabi. Shaykh Bin Bayyah invited three amazing people on the stage to receive awards; people who made sacrifices for peace.
The first person was Farid Ahmed whose wife was killed in the Christchurch mosque massacre in New Zealand. He said, “I forgive the killer and pray for him”. What a high level of forgiveness!
The second recipient of the award was Imam Abu Baker Abdullahi from Nigeria, the Imam who gave refuge to 262 Christians in his mosque when Boko Haram terrorists were killing Christians in that area. The killers were not going away so, he told the killers “first kill me and then them”. An old frail man who was willing to die to save others, what a brave act of selflessness!
The third was the Commander of Moro National Liberation Front of the Philippines who made peace with the government after forty years of bitter guerrilla fighting. He said, “Finally, we have agreed to live in peace”.
The Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs of United Arab Emirates organised this conference on 9th to 11th December 2019.
The conference theme was “The Role of Religions in Promoting Tolerance: From Possibility to Necessity.” More than 1000 faith leaders, representatives of international civil society, organisations and advocates of tolerance, compassion and peace from 60 countries, along with representatives of the United Nations participated in this glorious gathering. The forum launched the “Alliance of Virtue Charter”.
“The Marrakesh Declaration of 2016 called for the establishment of a legal document defending the rights of religious minorities in Muslim countries, this was the original model of citizenship according to Islamic doctrine. A document that respects the rights of minorities.“Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah
He also stressed that the meeting will aim to achieve a resolution that tolerance isn’t a just a moral duty but a binding legal duty. Dr Mathar al Kaabi the Head of Auqaf of Abu Dhabi and General Secretary of the Forum told the delegates how his country had designated 2019 as the Year of Tolerance, with the aim of promoting cultural dialogue and more generous concept of tolerance. All the delegates from all over the world were given amazing hospitality and honour.
The ‘Alliance of Virtue’ charter is actually based on the famous Hilf al Fudhul of the Beloved Messenger (peace be upon him). An Alliance that He (peace be upon him) made with certain like-minded Makkans to protect the rights of societies downtrodden people. The new Alliance of Virtue Charter is regarded as groundbreaking, as it moves the relationship between religions and people, to universal charters, as a reminder of the values and human partnerships that were present in the Arabian Peninsula.
The promotion of tolerance is important because many religious minorities in some regions suffer when society denies pluralism and diversity. “This is a challenge for humanity,” said Shaykh Bin Bayyah. “We must address the challenge: common challenges require common approaches; therefore, we believe that action must be taken.” He stressed that the Marrakesh Declaration has deprived extremist ideologues of religious legitimacy, by firmly stating that the persecution of religious minorities in any form is contrary to the values and practices of Islam.
More about the Charter
The charter asserts that an alliance among people of all faiths will lead to respect, tolerance and peace, this will smother the flames of war and discrimination. The principles on which the charter is based on are:
- The dignity of all people, irrespective of their diverse; race, religion, language and ethnicity, since the divine soul was breathed into them they are endowed with dignity by their Omnipotent Creator.
- Freedom of conscience and religion: There is no compulsion in religion, therefore people have the right to their beliefs and practices without fear of the others… cultural differences are a source of enrichment.
- The other principles are justice, kindness and solidarity.
The purpose of the charter is to encourage religious leaders to promote peace in their societies; cooperation between the people of the Abrahamic family and of other faith backgrounds. To stand against extremism, violence and any discourse of incitement and bigotry and finally to promote a conciliatory approach in the society creating mutual respect.