Pope Francis praises UAE for its modernity, while maintaining its roots

Pope Francis (L) was speaking just days after his historic visit to the UAE where he met Egypt's Azhar Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb. (Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/File)
Updated 10 February 2019
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Pope Francis praises UAE for its modernity, while maintaining its roots

  • Pope Francis says UAE was a modern country looking to the future without forgetting its roots
  • Pontiff tells WGS he hopes the visit to the UAE is the start of a new era

DUBAI: Pope Francis has praised the UAE, describing it as a “modern country looking to the future without forgetting its roots.”

Speaking in a video message broadcast Sunday at the first day of the World Government Summit in Dubai, he said he hoped his visit to the UAE last week was the start of change.

“I carry in my heart the visit I just made to the UAE and the warm welcome I received,” he said.

“I encountered a modern country looking to the future without forgetting its roots. I saw a country seeking to transform into concrete initiatives the words tolerance, fraternity, mutual respect and freedom.”

Pope Francis’s historic visit to Abu Dhabi last week was the first by a pontiff to the Arabian Gulf and saw him lead the biggest open mass to be held in the region with a 180,000-strong congregation.

He said he returned home from a country that had risen from the desert in the hope that others could be equally successful.

“I believe it is possible,” he said.

“But only if we grow together, alongside one another, with openness and respect, willing to take on everyone’s problems.”

Addressing world governments, he spoke of political challenges, economic development, environmental protection and the use of technology.

He said he hoped the question underlying their reflections would not only be “what are the best opportunities to take advantage of?”, but rather “what kind of world to we want to build together?”

Pope Francis explained that this question pushed people to think of others rather than capital and economic interests.

“It is a question that does not look to tomorrow, but further into the future, to the responsibility weighing upon us,” he added.

“Handing on this world of ours to those who will come after us, preserving it from environmental degradation and, even before that, from moral degradation. We cannot speak of sustainable development without solidarity.”

During the Pope’s visit to the UAE he met with the Grand Imam of Al Azhar Al Sharif University and chairman of the Muslim Council of Elders, Dr Ahmed Al Tayeb.

The pair signed a pledge of commitment to tolerance and fraternity at the end of a day which also saw the Pontiff visit the Presidential Palace of the UAE and the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said the Pope’s visit was historic and provided opportunities for the future.

“It opens a new page in the history of religions and in the dialogue of religions,” he said.

“They are two people of peace but who could have ever thought that those two symbols would overcome all limits and constraints to sign a new agreement of peace to overcome violence and hatred?”

He said their meeting in Abu Dhabi last week was aimed at relaying an important message.

“As they said to the world: peace is hard to achieve but it is not impossible,” he added.

“Some might wonder why those two religious symbols insist on brotherhood and the answer lies in one word: peace. Therefore, all of us should be courageous enough and assume our responsibilities to put an end to conflict and wars – we might not succeed but we will most definitely try,” he said.


Sudan’s military council, opposition coalition agree political accord

Updated 17 July 2019
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Sudan’s military council, opposition coalition agree political accord

  • The constitutional declaration is expected to be signed on Friday
  • The deal aims to help the political transition in Sudan

KHARTOUM: Sudan’s ruling military council and an opposition alliance signed a political accord on Wednesday as part of a power-sharing deal aimed at leading the country to democracy following three decades of autocratic rule.

The agreement, which ended days of speculation about whether a deal announced earlier this month would hold, was initialed in Khartoum in the presence of African mediators following a night of talks to iron out some details of the agreement.

Sudan’s stability is crucial for the security of a volatile region stretching from the Horn of Africa to Libya that is riven by conflict and power struggles.

The deal is meant to pave the way to a political transition after military leaders ousted former President Omar Al-Bashir in April following weeks of protests against his rule.

At least 128 people were killed during a crackdown that began when security forces dispersed a protest camp outside the Defense Ministry in central Khartoum in June, according to medics linked to the opposition. The Health Ministry had put the death toll at 61.

A political standoff between Sudan’s military rulers and protesters threatened to drag the country of 40 million toward further violence before African mediators managed to bridge the gap between the two sides.

General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the deputy head of Sudan’s Transitional Military Council, hailed the agreement as the start of a new partnership between the armed forces, including the paramilitary forces he leads, and the opposition coalition of Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC).

Ibrahim Al-Amin, an FFC leader, said the accord signaled a new era of self-reliance for Sudan’s people.

“We want a stable homeland, because we have suffered a great deal,” Amin said in a speech after the ceremony.

Ethiopian mediator Mahmud Dirir said Sudan, long under international isolation over the policies of Bashir’s Islamist administration, needed to overcome poverty and called for the country to be taken of a US list of states that support terrorism.

The sides are still working on a constitutional declaration, which is expected to be signed on Friday.

Power-sharing deal

Under the power-sharing deal reached earlier this month, the two sides agreed to share power in a sovereign council during a transitional period of just over three years.

They also agreed to form an independent government of technocrats to run the country and to launch a transparent, independent investigation into the violence.

The power-sharing agreement reached earlier this month called for a sovereign council comprised of 11 members — five officers selected by the military council, five civilians chosen by the FFC and another civilian to be agreed upon by both sides.

The constitutional declaration will now decide the duties and responsibilities of the sovereign council.

The military was to head the council during the first 21 months of the transitional period while a civilian would head the council during the remaining 18 months.

But the agreement was thrown into doubt when new disputes surfaced last week over the military council’s demand for immunity for council members against prosecution.

The military council also demanded that the sovereign council would retain ultimate decision-making powers rather than the government.