07 February 2019, The Tablet

Landmark moment for all faiths


His visit to the Arabian Peninsula this week was Pope Francis at his best. He delivered a powerful address full of resounding phrases in favour of peace and social justice to a unique interfaith assembly in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates. He came, he said, “as a believer thirsting for peace, as a brother seeking peace with the brethren”. With obvious sincerity he offered a warm hand of friendship and fraternity to Muslims there and everywhere, and he ministered to and encouraged in their faith the million or so Catholics in the Emirates, most of them migrant workers.

His visit sends a lesson in mutual tolerance between Christians and Muslims around the world. It is an emphatic rebuttal of the idea that the Christian world and the Islamic world are on a collision course of apocalyptic proportions – the “clash of civilisations” hypothesis. The authorities in Abu Dhabi set a bold example to other Arab countries.

But Francis goes beyond a call for tolerance. His message is one of fraternity – the recognition that the two faiths belong in the same family and worship the same God. It is a message his Arab hosts reciprocated, sounding no less sincere.

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