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The Pope at the cradle of Islam

On the occation of the first visit of a Pope at the Arab Peninsula in the United Arab Emirates Pope Francis called upon to use religion for peace, tolerance and the compliance of the freedom of religion. Dialog and tolerance are the keywords. But what´s the meaning of it?

The Pope followed the invitation of the catholic church in the United Arab Emirates and of the political leaders, his Highnes Sheik Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crownprince of Abu Dhabi and his Highnes Sheik Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vicepresident Premier and leader of Dubai to come to Abu Dhabi. At the cradle of islam. Unthinkable not long ago. But the United Arab Emirates and its sunnite dynasty count on religious tolerance, on cultural freedom, as Sheik Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum emphasized: „We…are looking forward to this historic visit that will contribute to underpinning the values of tolerance, peaceful co-existence, and cultural exchange.“

Already for the Foundingfather of the Emirates, Sheik Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the Islam as a peaceful religion and tolerance were a real concern: „True wealth lies not just in material possibilities. The real wealth of a nation ist he free individuals who hear the sound of their future.“ A quote Sheik Zayeds, which also the Pope related as answer to his reception at the Emirates. But also on the side of the catholic church there are traces into the past. The patron of the name of Pope Francis, the Holy Franciscus of Assisi started his journeys to the orient between 1209-1219. But shipwreck, deseases and so on hindered him to arrive at his destiny. It was his aim to stop the crusades between christians and moslems. Until 1220 he succeded and made an overwhelming experience in Egypt. In the camp oft he Sultan he realized a religiosity that touched him deeply. Therefore he encouraged his brothers to live between foreigners and be helpful to them. „who´s doing it will discover not only the love for God in other coultures and religions, but will also realize that there are no foreigners in the realm of God-and that all boarders, every close up is made by men.“ A quote of the Holy Francis on franziskaner.net. The meeting of Francis with the Islam found its expression in rule 1221 of the order that encourages the brothers to mingle inspired amoung believers of other faiths. They should live amoung them from the spirit and should not quarrel but be helpful to all men for Gods sake. As options for action there followed: to be initiative, without own interests, to link up at the connective, to do good to foreigners. Only if God likes it (inshallah) also experiences of believe should be topics of the spriritual exchange. But it took until 2001 that with Pope Johannes Paul II a Pope visited a mosque, at Damaskus.
However the Emirates are an exception, 200 nationalities lieve there and members of different religions nd cultures, together in one place. There is also a Minister of Tolerance. 2019 is under the motto of „Global Tolerance“. Point 4 of the five point plan, which was set up, is especially to emphasize: „the focus in on legislative and policy- oriented objectives that contribute mandating cultural and religious tolerance via dialogue.“ the Emirates reach high rankings with their initiatives against extremism and terroris in the international indeces, as for example of the international Institute for Management and Development in Switzerland. It is intended to be a role model in the region, a so called spill over effect is expected, as Sheik Mohammed explained in the Gulf News: „The UAE must lead the way to intellectual, cultural and media initaitives that further consolidate the values tolerance and coexistence, opening up to cultures of the region and the world as a whole.“

At his first visit at the Arab Peninsula at the United Arab Emirates Pope Francis called upon to use religion for peace, tolerance and the compliance of the freedom of religion. Dialog and tolerance are the keywords. It is not to negate the own identity but „ to bring up the courrage to difference, this includes the full recognition of the others and their freedom, and the successive effort that the basic rights are recognized everywhere by everyone.“ Education and justice, a holistic and coherent development are the corners to the aim to aply religion as key for a peaceful future.

The Pope puts the beatification in the center of his sermon: „it means to understand life as a lovestory, the story of the true love of God, who never give us up and wants always to be in common with us. „ In practice he compares the relation between the written gospel and the realized gospel with written music and the played one. : „You are the corus, that encloses a variety of nations, languages and rites; a diversity, which the Holy Ghost loves and wants to bring in harmony, to make a symphony out of it.“

It´s important to the moderate forces in the Arab World to win the Pope as an ally. Connected with it is the „Human Fraternity Dialogue“ of the religions, an invitation of the Grand Sheik and Grand Imam of the Al Azhar Mosque and University of Cairo, Dr. Ahmed Al Tayyeh. The sense of the conference is, according to Sheik Al Tayyeb, to fight against the religious extremism and fundamentalism, as he explained in an interview with the Deutschlandfunk. Both of this components leads to terrorism the shortest way. Al Azhar wants to open up: „ We took the initiative, visited the Vatican, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Worldcouncil of Churches in Genf and Florence.“ Looking for dialogue is the aim. Programms for training the Imams abroad are strived for. The Grand Sheik wishes a cooperation with the Humboldt University in Berlin for the establishment of a professorship for islamic theology. It´s the aim according to the Grand Sheik, that the Moslims that visit the mosques could live in their communities integrated and in peace to become engaged citizens, that they act peace-loving. The Pope was happy about the invitation to the dialogue of religions: „Faith brings us together even in the face of differences. It also keeps us away from hostility and indifference. I am happy on this occation, granted to me by God, which will create a new chapter in the history of relations between faiths.“ Before the 700 delegates of the different religions Pope Francis emphasized that all have the same dignity. Together with the Grand Sheik and Sheik Mohammed Al Maktoum he signed a declaration which bans every violence in the name of religion. „ Decisively we declare, that religions are never allowed to encourage war, hate, hostility and extremism. They are not allowed to encourage to violence and bloodshed.“ As Jürgen Erbacher of the editorship of the ZDF „Catholic Church and Life“ quoted. Stefan von Kempis of „Vaticannews“ called this high ranking catholic-islam Declaration a Charta of Human Rights of the two grand religions, in which not only religious motivated terrorism is condemned but also emphasized „the right of every man of freedom“, in shape of freedom of believe. Amoung the locations of prayer to protect, there are also synagoges , and the rights of women that are emphazised. The importance of the text according to Stefan von Kempis ist especially that it demands the full statesmanship and the full rights for christians in the countries where the moslims have the majority. The Grand Sheik and leader of Al Azhar, one of the most important voices in the sunnit islam, demands also from Moslims in western countries to follow the rules and laws of the countries they live in. This religiouse document is high explosive, therefore it was not made public before, to hinder political influence. It has a tremendous political signification in this part of the world. Pope Francis and Grand Sheik Al Tayyeb set a milestone, behind which the Christians and Moslims can not go back that easy. As Roland Juchem of the Swiss Catholics emphazises. Von Kempis also concludes with right „the Ghost of Abu Dhabi earns a chance.“

Sentiment and meaning of these special days were described by Sabine Balve from Dubai, she´s the founder of the initiatives Global Tolerance Faces and the World Leaders Forum Dubai:
„With this journey of Pope Francis there is written a new chapter in the history of the relations between religions. The Leadership of the state made available the biggest sport stadium of the country to the Pope for his mess. Free of charge. Again a sign of generosity of the Leaders of the United Arab Emirates. All people in the Emirates that wanted to take part at the mess, became holiday. Schools for wo days. Almost 180 000 visitors came, amoung them thousands of Moslims. It was a breathtaking und very emotional historic meeting of the two most important religious leaders of the world., which moved many of us to tears.“

The embrace of Pope Francis and the the Grand Imam of the Al Azhar University Sheik Ahmad al- Tayyeb, during the visit of the Sheik Said Grandmosque had a tremendous power as symbol of brotherhood of humankind.“

„I saw and received the United Arab Emirates always as multicultural, open minded and tolerant during the last 13 years that I live here, as a Christian and German woman. I realize it as an islamic and multicultural country that earned it to be a role model at the international level. For me the Emirates are the New York of the middle east, but even better, because it is the most secure country of the world“ explains Sabine Balve.

„At the same time we made a contribution to the agreement between nations and the dialogue between Moslims and Christians with my independent campaign „Global Tolerance Faces“ www.golbaltolerancefaces.com, which startet already on January 1st in 2017. The Motto of our campaign is: peaceful coexistence for a lasting world in peace.

This campaign brought together international politicians, ministers, artists and sportmen, world champions in several disciplines and other influential international role models for tolerance and peace amoung nations and all religions, connect all mankind in that spirit: Empower unity-empower diversity-empower believe-empower nations-2019 United Arab Emirates, Year of Tolerance-celebrate global.“
Mrs. Balve wants to say thank you for the international support of her initiative Global Tolerance Faces www.globaltolerancefaces.com. This in connection especially at Global Faces Embassador Dr. Beatrice Bischof, journalist and analyst, member of the board of the Foreign Affairs Association in Munich, for her never ending support of our mission in Germany to become known in the right circles in Germany. At Dr. Ingo Friedrich, Vicepresident of the European Parliament a. D., who gave us a shot at the Ludwig Erhard Gipfel with the victory sign. Also at Dr. Beate Merk, Bavarian Minister of Justice and Europe a. D., whose mission to fight the causes of flight, the causes of war and hunger is very important. This also in hinsight to calm the waves in Europe and Germany. But it is also the topic of a new movement of Mrs. Balve. The mission that people world wide have to collaborate, to re- establish the social peace. Part of it is to strenghen developing countries with foreign policy. „ If people can stay at their native countries, they will be thankful to us in various kinds. Nobody wants to leave his native country and his culture voluntary.“ She wants to thank also the many other supporters in politics, as the government oft he Saarland, Minister of Economy Mrs. Anke Rehlinger, the Lord Mayor of Saarbrücken Charlotte Britz, Mr. Willi Edelbluth, who encouraged all on an all party base, to the representatives of the sport, such as the journalist Patrick Lang, whose father Serge, called the international Ski Worldcup into being, a true statement of agreement between nations. Also to Peter Dumont, CEO and Founder of „The Art of New“, Expert for the Research of Trends & Digitalization as well as his chief advisor and winner of the „Oskar“ Tyron Montgomery, …and many more…
„We are firmly convinced, that the use of the Social Media Platform of Global Tolerance Faces can help to loosen the social tensions and has to be used, to spread positivism and the culture of dialogue and promote tolerance. They are important to support the progress of the agreement between nations. Let us cooperate to build bridges of peace, respect, tolerance and humanity: worldwide! Says Sabine Balve, Founder of www.globaltolerancefaces.com in the United Arab Emirates.

Read more in this debate: Nik Darlington, Kieron O'Hara.

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