Pope: peace requires knowing others, listening and intellectual flexibility

By Lisa Zengarini, Vatican News

Click here to read the Pope’s address.

Pope Francis addresses a message to participants in the 4th International Congress of the University Research Platform on Islam, held in Abu Dhabi, UAE. The event marks the fifth anniversary of the signing of the joint Declaration on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together on 4 February 2019.

Not knowing and not listening to others, and lack of intellectual flexibility are the three “root causes” of war and injustices that “destroy human fraternity”, and which must be clearly identified if humanity is to find “wisdom and peace”.

Pope Francis strongly reaffirmed this stance in a message he addressed on Sunday to participants in the fourth Congress of PLURIEL, the University Research Platform on Islam in Europe and Lebanon, taking place in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on 4-7 February under the theme “Islam and Human Fraternity: The Impact and Prospects of the Abu Dhabi Declaration on Coexistence”.

The Congress

The academic platform was created in 2014 by the Federation of European Catholic Universities (FECU) as a space for scholars working on Islam and on Christian-Muslim dialogue to share their research and ideas, and to encourage interaction between academics and social actors.

The conference, which builds upon the previous congresses held in 2016, 2018 and 2022, is organized in partnership with the UAE Ministry of Tolerance and Coexistence on the occasion fifth anniversary of the Declaration on “Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” co-signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad al-Tayyeb on 4 February 2019 during his Apostolic Journey to the country.

With over 57 speakers and chairpersons from 40 universities and research institutions across four continents, the gathering aims to assess the reception of this landmark document and to explore the changes needed to promote global human fraternity in the social, political and theological contexts.

Human fraternity facing challenges from injustices and wars

Pope Francis “warmly congratulated” the organizers for the place and the theme chosen, at a time when global fraternity and coexistence face challenges from injustices and wars, which, he reiterated, “are always a defeat for humanity.”

He also emphasized the importance of the Abu Dhabi Document becoming a subject of research and reflection in educational institutions to foster new generations committed to peace-building, justice, and to advocating for the rights of the “least” in society.

The importance of education to dialogue and encounter

The message noted that the primary cause of the evil of war is the lack of knowing and understanding each other, and underscored the need for building mutual trust and changing negative perceptions of the “other who is our brother in humanity” to initiate peace processes acceptable for all.

Hence the crucial importance of education: “Peace without an education based on respect and understanding of others holds no value”, the Pope stressed. ”If we are to build this much-desired world in which we adopt dialogue as a path, mutual cooperation as the code of conduct; reciprocal understanding as the method and standard, then the way to follow today is that of education to dialogue and encounter.”

Listening to the other

Recalling that human intelligence, as opposed to artificial intelligence, is fundamentally “relational”, Pope Francis went on to highlight the power of listening to the other, and the role of genuine dialogue in understanding different perspectives. Indeed, the lack of listening is “the second trap that harms fraternity”, he said. “To debate, we must learn to listen, that is to be silent and slow down, as opposed to the current direction of our post-modern hectic world, full of images and noise”.

“How many evils would be avoided if there were more listening, silence and real words all at once, in families, political or religious communities, within universities themselves and between peoples and cultures!”

“Creating spaces to welcome different opinions is not a waste of time, but a gain in humanity,” the Pope insisted.

Need for intellectual flexibility

On the other hand, the message continued, debating implies an education in intellectual flexibility aiming to make individuals flexible, open, and fraternal. Wisdom seeks the other, values the past, and engages in dialogue with the present, the Pope noted, recalling his own words at the International Peace Conference held in Al-Azhar, Cairo, in 2017.

The dream of fraternity in peace must not remain confined to words

Bringing his message to a close, Pope Francis urged participants in the conference not to let the “dream of fraternity in peace remain confined to words” and encouraged them to embrace dialogue in all its richness, cultivating flexibility and listening to the world.

“Stay curious, cultivate flexibility, listen to the world, do not be afraid of this world, listen to your brother whom you did not choose but whom God placed next to you for you to learn to love.”

Themes to be discussed in Abu Dhabi

The four-day conference will be articulated around three thematic areas exploring the various aspects and challenges inherent in the promotion of human fraternity.

The socio-legal theme will examine the issue of full citizenship in multicultural and multi-religious societies, with particular emphasis on the legal protection of religious minorities. The aim will be to assess good practices as well as concerns relating to freedom of religion and the recognition of minority rights. The second thematic era will be geopolitics in which participants will examine the role of religion and ideology in current conflicts. It will seek to identify positive examples of processes aimed at countering religious extremism and intolerance. It will also explore how governments and international organisations can engage religious actors in promoting common goals such as sustainable development, human rights and peace.

Finally, the theological-dialogical theme will explore the theological reflection prompted by the Document on Human Fraternity, analysing how Christians and Muslims are rethinking their understanding of fraternity and mission in response to this ideal of inclusive fraternity.

Post photo by Masjid Pogung Dalangan on Unsplash