How Zayed Award for Human Fraternity amplifies open-minded voices of all faiths and cultures

Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan (L) watches as Pope Francis (C) and Egypt’s Azhar Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb sign documents during the Human Fraternity Meeting in 2019. (AFP/File Photo)
Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan (L) watches as Pope Francis (C) and Egypt’s Azhar Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb sign documents during the Human Fraternity Meeting in 2019. (AFP/File Photo)
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Updated 28 November 2021

How Zayed Award for Human Fraternity amplifies open-minded voices of all faiths and cultures

Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan (L) watches as Pope Francis (C) and Egypt’s Azhar Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb sign documents during the Human Fraternity Meeting in 2019. (AFP/File Photo)
  • The Zayed Award for Human Fraternity was launched in 2019 following Pope Francis’ historic visit to Abu Dhabi
  • Zayed Award committee judge Leah Pisar explains why religious tolerance is needed now more than ever

DUBAI: Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church, delivered a message of hope and tolerance during a recent meeting at the Vatican with the judging committee of the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity 2022.

“We have to maintain and sustain” the path of human fraternity, he told the committee at its Oct. 6 gathering, which took place less than two months before nominations are due to close for this year’s award on Dec. 1.

The award was created to build on the historic Feb. 4, 2019, meeting in Abu Dhabi between Pope Francis and the grand imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed Al-Tayeb.

Their meeting, which marked the first-ever papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula, culminated in the co-signing of the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, also known as the Abu Dhabi declaration.

It was born of a fraternal discussion between the two religious leaders to guide others in advancing a “culture of mutual respect,” which Francis later described as “no mere diplomatic gesture, but a reflection born of dialogue and common commitment.”

The document led to the creation of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity and the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity under the patronage of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi.

The award, now in its third edition, is named in honor of Sheikh Mohammed’s late father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, founder of the UAE. It is an independent global prize launched in recognition of those making a profound contribution to human progress and peaceful coexistence.

The 2021 prize was jointly awarded to Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, and French-Moroccan activist Latifa Ibn Ziaten, founder of the Imad Association for Youth and Peace, who, after losing her son to an act of terrorism, transformed her sorrow into outreach to young people.




His Holiness Pope Francis with members of the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity at the Vatican. (Supplied)

Among the award’s judging committee are Mahamadou Issoufou, former president of Niger and winner of the 2020 Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, and Jose Ramos-Horta, former president of East Timor.

Also on the committee are Judge Mohamed Abdelsalam, secretary-general of the Higher Committee on Human Fraternity and co-author of the Document on Human Fraternity, and Leah Pisar, president of the Aladdin Project.

“It was an extraordinary gathering, and the meeting really gave me hope at a moment when we need hope,” Pisar told Arab News following her meeting with Pope Francis.

“We are at a critical juncture in human history, and we have no choice but to seize it because humanity could really go one way or the other if we are not vigilant. I see this declaration as a very bold and courageous call to action.”

The Aladdin Project is an international NGO that was launched by the late French President Jacques Chirac and several other heads of state to promote rapprochement of cultures and the use of lessons from history to overcome hate and extremism. It has a partnership with UNESCO.

Pisar said the fact that the award is overseen by the pope and the grand imam of Al-Azhar gives it immense credibility, and the force, depth, and resonance necessary to make the public and community leaders sit up and listen.

“I am the only Jewish member of this jury and was received very warmly,” Pisar said. “I felt embraced and welcomed, and this is something very important because it highlights the fact that everybody who is a part of this understands the term ‘brothers and sisters’ — we all pray to the same God, there is a common humanity and far more that unites us than sets us apart.”

Despite their religious differences, the committee’s spiritual and intellectual leadership is a “federation of the open-minded voices of all cultures,” which, in essence, stand for broadly similar values and can learn a lot from one another, Pisar said.




The 2021 Zayed Award for Human Fraternity was jointly awarded to Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, and French-Moroccan activist Latifa Ibn Ziaten. (AFP/File Photo)

“We are not necessarily going to agree on everything, but we have to understand where we are all coming from. And if we can have the courage and open-mindedness to do that, then we are going to find more and more common ground and foster tolerance, and we are in dire need of tolerance.”

The US is emerging from a “hideous” period of hatred, she said, whereby the rhetoric of the past four years pitted people against one another.

Pisar’s aim is to ensure such negativity is not allowed to fester. To do so, the Aladdin Project champions tolerance through different cultural exchanges and educational initiatives.

From youth programs focusing on sports to annual summer schools that bring together students from 70 partner universities, the Aladdin Project offers people from different cultures an opportunity to get to know one another, to learn to respect their differences, and to develop a common understanding.

“I believe that’s a powerful way of doing things,” Pisar said. “It’s about exchanging with and listening to others. Since I was elected president of Project Aladdin four years ago, I’ve met extraordinary people in different countries, and I want to learn from them. If we can just stop and listen sometimes, we’ll go a long way.”

The Aladdin Project has published several books in Arabic and Farsi covering topics ranging from history to literature. One new text on religion, titled “Know the Religion of Thy Neighbour,” was written by senior clerics from the three monotheistic “Abrahamic” religions - Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.

The book serves as a tool for theology students at the religious schools of the three faiths to learn about other belief systems directly, instead of through the strict prism of their own doctrine. The book, currently available in French, is now being translated into Arabic, English, Italian and German.

“We are hopeful it’s something that will get out as a method of teaching,” Pisar said. “There’s a lot to be done in the world of tolerance education.




President of the Aladdin Project Dr. Leah Pisar. (Supplied)

“We’re also working on early childhood education programs on how to open the eyes of K-6 (Kindergarten through sixth grade) age children. I have a six-year-old son and I know, from personal experience, that parents struggle with explaining certain dark chapters of history and human behavior to their children.”

The Aladdin Project’s overarching objective is to counter all kinds of hatred and bigotry, including antisemitism and Islamophobia, because “we are all in the same boat,” she said.

The Abu Dhabi Declaration was a milestone event in interfaith relations, but Pisar believes it is only a symbolic first step on the road towards building a world of greater religious and cultural tolerance.

“If the answer was simple, the problem would have been solved,” she said. “We each bring our part and my mission and the mission of this group is to bring one brick or one stone to this edifice.”

To that end, she says, only dialogue, human fraternity, and respect will make coexistence and tolerance possible.

“We have no choice but to act,” Pisar said. “When I meet people who want to make a difference, I find optimism. We have tools, like technology, and there’s a lot to do, but we have to not only believe we can do it but really plow forward in concrete ways.”




Pope Francis greets Egypt's Azhar Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb after signing on documents during the Human Fraternity Meeting at the Founders Memorial in Abu Dhabi on February 4, 2019. (AFP/File Photo)

Having the blessings of major religious leaders and institutions shows people they are not alone and that there are influential backers sharing messages that truly resonate, she said.

The 2019 declaration, according to her, is a courageous and essential document that should become as inclusive and all-encompassing as possible, so that all faiths and cultures feel they can relate to it.

“Here we have two leaders representing different faiths, who have agreed to sign a common text in the knowledge that the importance of it was bigger than the differences that might set them apart,” Pisar said.

“What strikes me is that the extremists make a lot of noise and the moderates don’t. It’s time for moderates from different cultures and religions to pool their energies and start making more constructive noise. In this way, we will make important strides forward.”

The winner of the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity 2022 will be announced on Feb. 4, 2022.

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Twitter: @CalineMalek


Arab League convenes to discuss Houthi aggression on UAE

Arab League convenes to discuss Houthi aggression on UAE
Updated 23 January 2022

Arab League convenes to discuss Houthi aggression on UAE

Arab League convenes to discuss Houthi aggression on UAE

DUBAI: The Arab League is holding a meeting Sunday to discuss the Houthi militia’s latest attempt to attack the UAE.

Last week, drones launched from Yemen struck Abu Dhabi’s airport and three separate fuel tankers, killing three people and wounding seven.

The Secretary-General of the Arab League, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, strongly condemned the attack on civilian areas and facilities in the UAE, stressing that the League stands with its member state in the face of these violations, which work to destabilize the security and stability of the region.

The diplomatic adviser to the President of the UAE, Anwar Gargash, stressed that his country will not hesitate to defend its sovereignty and national security, and it has the legal and moral right to respond and prevent any aggression on its territory.

Related


US detains Iranian smuggling ship, UK seizes drugs in Mideast waters

US detains Iranian smuggling ship, UK seizes drugs in Mideast waters
Updated 25 min 25 sec ago

US detains Iranian smuggling ship, UK seizes drugs in Mideast waters

US detains Iranian smuggling ship, UK seizes drugs in Mideast waters
  • The interdictions were just the latest in the volatile waters of the Arabian Gulf as American and British authorities step up seizures of contraband during the grinding conflict in Yemen

DUBAI: The US Navy announced Sunday it seized a boat in the Gulf of Oman carrying fertilizer used to make explosives that was caught last year smuggling weapons to Yemen. The British royal navy said it confiscated 1,041 kilograms (2,295 pounds) of illegal drugs in the same waters.

The interdictions were just the latest in the volatile waters of the Arabian Gulf as American and British authorities step up seizures of contraband during the grinding conflict in Yemen and ongoing drug trafficking in the region.

The US Navy’s Mideast-based 5th Fleet said its guided-missile destroyer USS Cole and patrol ships halted and searched the sailboat, a stateless fishing dhow, that was sailing from Iran on a well-worn maritime arms smuggling route to war-ravaged Yemen last Tuesday. US forces found 40 tons of urea fertilizer, known to be a key ingredient in homemade improvised explosive devices, hidden on board.

Authorities said the vessel had been previously seized off the coast of Somalia and found last year to be loaded with thousands of assault rifles and rocket launchers, among other weapons. UN experts say weapons with such technical characteristics likely come from Iran to support the Houthi rebels. The Navy turned over the vessel, cargo and Yemeni crew to Yemen’s coast guard earlier this week.

Yemen is awash with small arms that have been smuggled into the country's poorly controlled ports over years of conflict. Since 2015, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have been battling a Saudi-led military coalition for control of the nation. Iran says it politically supports the rebels but denies arming them, despite evidence to the contrary.

The smuggled weapons have helped the Houthis gain an edge against the Saudi-led coalition in the seven-year war. Violence has drastically escalated over the past week amid stalled international attempts at brokering peace. Following a deadly drone attack claimed by the rebels on Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates.

Officials also revealed Sunday that a British royal navy vessel had seized a large quantity of illegal drugs valued at some $26 million from a boat sailing through the Gulf of Oman on Jan. 15.

The HMS Montrose confiscated 663 kilograms (1,461 pounds) of heroin, 87 kilograms (191 pounds) of methamphetamine and 291 kilograms (641 pounds) of hashish and marijuana, the joint maritime task force said in a statement.


Seoul says it paid Iran’s delinquent UN dues to restore vote

Seoul says it paid Iran’s delinquent UN dues to restore vote
Updated 23 January 2022

Seoul says it paid Iran’s delinquent UN dues to restore vote

Seoul says it paid Iran’s delinquent UN dues to restore vote
  • Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment
  • The ministry said it expected Iran’s voting rights to be restored immediately after their suspension earlier this month for delinquent dues

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates: Using Iranian bank funds freed from American sanctions, South Korea has paid Iran’s $18 million in delinquent dues owed to the United Nations, Seoul said Sunday. The step was apparently approved by Washington to restore Tehran’s suspended voting rights at the world body.
Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But the South Korean Foreign Ministry said Seoul had paid the sum using Iranian assets frozen in the country after consulting with the United States Treasury — a potential signal of flexibility amid floundering nuclear negotiations.
The ministry said it expected Iran’s voting rights to be restored immediately after their suspension earlier this month for delinquent dues.
The funds had been impounded at a Korean bank under sanctions imposed by former President Donald Trump after he withdrew the US from Tehran’s landmark nuclear deal with world powers. The US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control must grant a license for these transactions under the American banking sanctions imposed on Iran. The Treasury did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the unfrozen funds.
The Biden administration wants to restore the 2015 nuclear deal, which granted Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.
Diplomats are now engaged in delicate negotiations to revive the accord in Vienna, although a breakthrough remains elusive as Iran abandons every limitation the deal imposed on its nuclear enrichment. The country now enriches a small amount of to 60 percent purity — a short, technical step away from weapons grade levels — and spins far more advanced centrifuges than allowed.
Under the United Nations Charter, a nation that owes the previous two full years’ worth of dues loses its voting rights at the General Assembly.
A letter from Secretary-General Antonio Guterres circulated earlier this month revealed that Iran was among several delinquent countries on that list, which also includes Venezuela and Sudan. The General Assembly can make exceptions to the rule, determining that some countries face circumstances “beyond the control of the member.”
According to the secretary-general’s letter, Iran needed to pay a minimum of $18.4 million to restore its voting rights.
Iran also lost its voting rights in January of last year, prompting Tehran to lash out at the US for imposing crushing sanctions that froze billions of dollars in Iranian funds in banks around the world. Tehran regained voting rights last June after making the minimum payment on its dues.
Iran over the past few years has pressured Seoul to release about $7 billion in revenues from oil sales that remain frozen in South Korean banks since the Trump administration tightened sanctions on Iran.
The frozen funds hang in the balance as diplomats struggle to revive the nuclear deal. Senior South Korean diplomats including Choi Jong Kun, the first vice foreign minister, flew to Vienna this month to discuss the fate of the assets with their Iranian counterparts.


Migrant boat sinks off Tunisia coast; 4 dead, 7 missing

Migrant boat sinks off Tunisia coast; 4 dead, 7 missing
Updated 22 January 2022

Migrant boat sinks off Tunisia coast; 4 dead, 7 missing

Migrant boat sinks off Tunisia coast; 4 dead, 7 missing
  • Defense Ministry spokesman said navy divers rescued 21 people on Thursday night and 7 were still missing
  • Local media reported that a 10-year-old girl was among those who died

TUNIS: Four people died after a boat carrying Europe-bound migrants on the Mediterranean Sea sank off Tunisia’s coast, the Tunisian Defense Ministry said Friday.
Defense Ministry spokesman Mohamed Zekri said navy divers rescued 21 people on Thursday night and seven were still missing. The boat was heading to Italy, Zekri said.
Local media reported that a 10-year-old girl was among those who died.
Survivors told authorities that the boat had left the island of Kerkennah, near the port city of Sfax, carrying 32 Tunisians.
The UN has estimated that 20 percent of about 115,000 migrants who reached Europe by sea last year started the journey from Tunisia. Social unrest has gripped the North African country has for years as the economy worsened and unemployment reached 18 percent.
The central Mediterranean route, which runs from North Africa to southern Italy, is the busiest and deadliest migration route to Europe. People travel from Libya and Tunisia in crowded boats and at the mercy of the smugglers they pay to get them across the sea.
About 60,000 people arrived in Italy by sea last year, and some 1,200 died or disappeared on the journey, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
On Wednesday, an amphibious unit of Tunisia’s navy rescued 23 people from a sinking boat as they left Tunisia for Italy, according to the Tunisian Defense ministry. It said 13 of the passengers were from Mali and 10 were from the Ivory Coast.


Syrian boy to receive four prosthetic limbs in Italy

Thanks to donations totalling €114,000 ($129,000), Mustafa Al-Nazzar, 6, will be treated by world-leading doctors at the INAIL prosthetic center near Bologna. (Reuters/Illustrative)
Thanks to donations totalling €114,000 ($129,000), Mustafa Al-Nazzar, 6, will be treated by world-leading doctors at the INAIL prosthetic center near Bologna. (Reuters/Illustrative)
Updated 22 January 2022

Syrian boy to receive four prosthetic limbs in Italy

Thanks to donations totalling €114,000 ($129,000), Mustafa Al-Nazzar, 6, will be treated by world-leading doctors at the INAIL prosthetic center near Bologna. (Reuters/Illustrative)
  • 6-figure donation will send 6-year-old born with no limbs to world-class clinic
  • Condition believed to have been caused by Assad regime gas attack during mother’s pregnancy

LONDON: A Syrian child born with no limbs after his mother endured a gas attack during her pregnancy is set to receive four prosthetic replacements in Italy following a charity campaign.

Thanks to donations totalling €114,000 ($129,000), Mustafa Al-Nazzar, 6, will be treated by world-leading doctors at the INAIL prosthetic center near Bologna.

“It will be a complicated job, but we aim to allow Mustafa to live an autonomous life,” said Gregorio Teti, technical director of the center that has worked with Alex Zanardi, the Formula One driver who lost his legs in a crash. 

Al-Nazzar’s mother was pregnant when the Syrian regime dropped gas bombs on Idlib province in 2016. The event has been linked to the boy’s condition.

Like so many others caught up in the regime’s oppression and the ongoing conflict, the family fled to Turkey, where Al-Nazzar was photographed being held in the air by his father, who lost a leg following a bomb attack. 

The famous photo captures their beaming smiles despite the suffering they have both endured.

The photographer was honored by the Siena International Photo Awards, which diverted the world’s eyes to the photo, inspiring the organizers of the prize to launch a charity appeal for Al-Nazzar.

“We feared that after the attention to the photo died down, the boy would get no help,” said Luca Venturi, the prize founder.

The Italian government has assisted with visas to bring the whole family to Italy, including Al-Nazzar’s two younger sisters. The Catholic Church has offered the family an apartment. 

Teti said Al-Nazzar’s new limbs could be adjusted to work thanks to small movements the boy makes in his shoulders and torso, which will require lengthy training sessions. 

Venturi said: “As he grows he will need to change limbs, while translators will be needed until the family can learn Italian. We are aiming to get to €400,000 raised.”

Al-Nazzar’s father told Italian media: “Mustafa is really happy, he has said he will finally be able to walk, hug me and go to school on his own.”