Pope joins with imam in making calls for peace before UN Security Council vote

Jun 14, 2023, 3:07 PM

FILE - In this July 11, 2021 file photo, Pope Francis appears on the Agostino Gemelli Polyclinic ba...

FILE - In this July 11, 2021 file photo, Pope Francis appears on the Agostino Gemelli Polyclinic balcony in Rome, where he was recovering from intestinal surgery, for the traditional Sunday blessing and Angelus prayer. Pope Francis went to the hospital Wednesday, June 7, 2023, to undergo abdominal surgery to treat an intestinal blockage, two years after he had his colon removed 33 centimeters (13 inches) because of inflammation and narrowing of the large intestine. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, file)

(AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, file)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Pope Francis and a leading Sunni imam made calls for peace as the U.N. Security Council met Wednesday to discuss the importance of “human fraternity” and condemn the hatreds that kindle conflicts.

The pope, who is in hospital recovering from abdominal surgery, sent a statement saying that a third world war is being fought “piecemeal” and with the potentially catastrophic effects of nuclear weapons “the time has come to say an emphatic ‘no’ to war.”

Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of Al-Azhar, the 1,000-year-old seat of Sunni learning in Cairo, said in a virtual briefing that human fraternity was the key to global peace, a point he and the pope had made in a joint document released in 2019.

The United Arab Emirates chose the importance of human fraternity in bringing peace as a centerpiece of its presidency of the council this month. After the appeals by the pope and grand imam, council members adopted a resolution recognizing that hate speech, racism, xenophobia, intolerance, gender discrimination and acts of extremism can contribute to conflict.

The resolution, co-sponsored by the UAE and the United Kingdom, urges all countries and organizations to condemn these acts and work to prevent them. It was adopted unanimously even though some of the council’s 15 members have been accused of some of the same actions they are condemning.

UAE Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh told The Associated Press after the vote that it was a “landmark” resolution that for the first time brings together previous council resolutions addressing hate speech, racism, incitement and extremism in different ways.

Pope Francis lamented that the world is going backward from the dream when the United Nations was founded in 1945 on the ashes of two world wars that countries would move toward a more stable peace and “become at last a family of nations.”

Instead, he said, the world is seeing “the rise of myopic, extremist, resentful and aggressive nationalisms that have kindled conflicts which are not only anachronistic and outdated but even more violent.”

The pope warned of the dangers of the arms race, which he said was driven by a desire for profits from arms sales.

“It takes more courage to renounce easy profits for the sake of keeping peace than to sell ever more sophisticated and powerful weapons,” he said.

And he said the potential of a nuclear catastrophe means it’s time to seek lasting peace — not built on ”the precarious balance of deterrence” but on “the fraternity that unites us.”

Francis has gone further than any pope before him by saying that not only the use but the mere possession of atomic weapons is immoral.

Prior to that, the Catholic Church had held for three decades that nuclear deterrence could be morally acceptable as long as it was used toward mutual, verifiable nuclear disarmament. The Holy See, however, has seen that the deterrence doctrine has essentially resulted in a nuclear status quo, with arms control treaties collapsing, leading to Francis’ change in church teaching.

Al-Tayeb said his intention in speaking to the council was to urge an end to senseless wars. He cited Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and Yemen, and the need for the council to recognize an independent Palestinian state after 75 years.

Without naming either Russia or Ukraine, he said the war unfolding on the eastern borders of Europe has instilled terror and “concern that it may regress humanity to a primitive era.”

The grand imam said the mission pursued by Al-Azhar and the Roman Catholic Church in the 2019 document on human fraternity for world peace must be pursued by political leaders.

“Our gathering today is not a luxury but a necessity, dictated by concern for the future of humanity,” Al-Tayeb said.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the declaration by the pope and the grand imam “a model for compassion and human solidarity” and urged countries and people everywhere “to stand together as one human family” and forge “an alliance of peace, rooted in the values of human fraternity.”


Associated Press writer Nicole Winfield contributed to this report from Rome.

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