By Courtney Mares
The U.N. Security Council convened a high-level briefing on Wednesday to discuss the role of “human fraternity” in promoting peace, inspired by the fraternity declaration co-authored by Pope Francis and a leading Sunni imam.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres told the council on June 14 to look to the human fraternity declaration signed by the pope and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Al-Sharif, Ahmed Al-Tayeb, in Abu Dhabi in 2019 as “a model for compassion and human solidarity.”
Following the briefing on June 14, the security council unanimously adopted a resolution condemning hate speech, racism, gender discrimination, and acts of extremism that was co-authored by the United Arab Emirates and the U.K.
The resolution had originally contained a reference to Pope Francis’ human fraternity declaration, which was deleted after some members expressed concern that the use of the term “human fraternity” could be interpreted as endorsing the entire content of the 2019 document, including its condemnation of abortion, according to the Security Council Report.
France also objected that the term “fraternity” was too ambiguous and could have contradictory interpretations, adding that religious questions do not have a place in the security council and that the resolution was “too weak” on the issues of women’s rights, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
Pope Francis, in a message read aloud by the Vatican’s foreign minister Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, invited the security council to “face our common problems, setting aside ideologies and narrow visions, partisan ideas and interests, and to cultivate a single purpose: to work for the good of all humanity.”
“We are suffering from a famine of fraternity, which arises from the many situations of injustice, poverty, and inequality and also from the lack of a culture of solidarity,” the pope said.
“New ideologies, characterized by widespread individualism, egocentrism, and materialistic consumerism, weaken social bonds, fueling that ‘throwaway’ mentality, which leads to contempt for and abandonment of the weakest and those considered ‘useless.’”
The UAE convened the high-level meeting on human fraternity as it holds the rotating security council presidency this month.
The meeting fell under the security council’s “maintenance of international peace and security” agenda item.
Al-Tayeb, considered the highest authority in Sunni Islam, addressed the council via video conference from Egypt.
He rejected claims that Islam is a religion of the sword and said that war is only acceptable in self-defense. Al-Tayeb urged the international community to move away from pointless wars, mentioning Syria, Libya, Yemen, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and said that the war on the eastern borders of Europe is instilling fear that humanity may regress.
The UAE and the Holy See have collaborated in promoting human fraternity in the years following the 2019 declaration.
The UAE created the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity, which is co-chaired by Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, the president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue of the Holy See, and sponsors the $1 million Zayed Award for Human Fraternity.
A Vatican foundation also honored Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan with its “Man of Humanity” award in 2021.
In Guterres’ address to the security council, he said that “we are witnessing a groundswell of xenophobia, racism and intolerance, violent misogyny, anti-Muslim hatred, virulent anti-Semitism, and attacks on minority Christian communities” around the world.
The U.N. secretary general called for strengthening “the values of compassion, respect, and human fraternity anchored in international human rights norms and standards, and secure free and safe civic spaces.”
“This demands action by all of us — across international organizations, governments, civil society, and the private sector. And it requires intervention by faith leaders everywhere,” he said.