The Holy Father’s recent visit to the United Arab Emirates, which was the first by any Pope has drawn a lot of attention from people across the world. It was much anticipated and the world was eagerly waiting to hear what the Holy Father would say, or would not say. True to his nature and character of being honest, modest, humble and direct, the Pope approached the various issues with clarity, conviction and forthrightness. Standing in the heart of the Arab world, he spoke from his heart, without any nuances, but with much concern tempered with hope.
The Holy Father was very conscious and respectful of the religiosity of the Arab world, while at the same time calling for a renewed reflection on the lived aspect of faith. His visit to the United Arab Emirates was to reinforce the spirit of fraternity, to give a clarion call to respect diversity, to foster dialogue, to condemn violence in the name of religion and to give a call to embrace persons denied of basic privileges.
He reminded that honouring the Creator involved cherishing the sacredness of every human life, because God does not pick favourites and has no preferential gaze. He reminds us that, “We cannot honour the Creator without cherishing the sacredness of every person and of every human life: each person is equally precious in the eyes of God, who does not look upon the human family with a preferential gaze that excludes, but with a benevolent gaze that includes. Thus, to recognize the same rights for every human being is to glorify the name of God on earth.”
He promoted equality, including mentioning the rights of women, appealing to free them from social conditioning, isolation and inferiority, by working to change laws that prevent women from enjoying liberty. He reminded that, in the eyes of God, all are equal. God created us in love, to love one another. God is present in all his creation, and so the temptation to judge brings forth a divide, which we all should be conscious of. He invited all believers to commit themselves to the equal dignity of all, in the name of the Creator. “Religions should be the voice of the least, who are not statistics but brothers and sisters, and should stand on the side of the poor. They should keep watch as sentinels of fraternity in the night of conflict. They should be vigilant warnings to humanity not to close our eyes in the face of injustice and never to resign ourselves to the many tragedies in the world.”
Deploring terrorism, the Pope stated that, “True religious piety consists in loving God with all one’s heart and one’s neighbour as oneself. Religious behaviour, therefore, needs continually to be purified from the recurrent temptation to judge others as enemies and adversaries. Each belief system is called to overcome the divide between friends and enemies, in order to take up the perspective of heaven, which embraces persons without privilege or discrimination.” He further pleaded that, “In the name of God the Creator, therefore, every form of violence must be condemned without hesitation, because we gravely profane God’s name when we use it to justify hatred and violence against a brother or sister. No violence can be justified in the name of religion.”
In a way, having reflected on not so pleasant side of life, the Pope appeals for a solution to the many problems ailing the world, through a process of dialogue. Dialogue is a process to end all false pretences and suspicion. “The courage of otherness is the heart of dialogue, which is based on sincerity of intentions.” Impressing upon the value of dialogue, he says, “Dialogue among believers means coming together in the vast space of spiritual, human and shared social values and, from here, transmitting the highest moral virtues that religions aim for. It also means avoiding unproductive discussions.”
This will help build a better society and a better world. Therefore, “Religions, in particular, cannot renounce the urgent task of building bridges between peoples and cultures.” He very bluntly states, “There is no alternative: we will either build the future together or there will not be a future.”