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Al-Azhar's Imam, Pope Francis Call for Tolerance, Peace

Al-Azhar's Imam, Pope Francis Call for Tolerance, Peace

Monday, 4 February, 2019 - 16:00
Pope Francis hugs Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the grand imam of Egypt's Al-Azhar, after an Interreligious meeting at the Founder's Memorial in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Monday, Feb. 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Abu Dhabi- Asharq Al-Awsat
Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Egypt’s Al-Azhar mosque and university, called Monday on Muslims in the Middle East to “embrace” local Christian communities.

He addressed Muslims saying: “Continue to embrace your brothers the Christian citizens everywhere, for they are our partners in our nation,” he said during a televised speech from a ceremony in the United Arab Emirates capital Abu Dhabi, also attended by Pope Francis.

Then he addressed Christians saying: “You are part of this nation. You are citizens, you are not a minority... You are citizens with full rights and responsibilities.”

Sheikh Tayeb also called on Muslims in the West to integrate into their host nations and respect local laws.

For his part, Pope Francis urged religious leaders to work together to reject war as he opened the first-ever papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula, the birthplace of Islam, with a strong denunciation of violence committed in God's name.

In a keynote speech to an interfaith gathering in the United Arab Emirates, Francis warned that the future of humanity was at stake unless religions come together to resist the "logic of armed power ... the arming of borders, the raising of walls."

"There is no alternative: we will either build the future together or there will not be a future," Francis told Abu Dhabi's crown prince and hundreds of imams, muftis, ministers, rabbis, and swamis.

"God is with those who seek peace," he added.

Francis' speech, delivered at the Emirates' Founders' Memorial, capped a historic day that began when he arrived at the presidential palace for a welcome ceremony in a tiny Kia hatchback.

The Emiratis' red-carpet welcome was remarkable, featuring horse-mounted guards escorting the pontiff's motorcade through the palace gardens while a flyover trailed the yellow and white smoke of the Vatican flag.

Francis' speech to the gathering of faith leaders was the highlight of his 40-hour visit to Abu Dhabi. His trip culminates Tuesday with the first papal Mass on the Arabian Peninsula, a gathering expected to draw some 135,000 faithful in a never-before-seen display of public Christian worship here.

The Jesuit pope capitalized on his relationship with the grand imam of Egypt's Al-Azhar, the revered 1,000-year-old seat of Sunni learning, to make the historic trip.

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