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Dr. Ahmad el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar Al Sharif and Pope Francis visit Sheikh Zayed Mosque on February 4, 2019 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.Francois Nel / Getty Images

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February 6, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – The first anniversary of Pope Francis signing the Abu Dhabi Document on Human Fraternity on February 4, 2019 was celebrated in Abu Dhabi this week with a series of events aimed at further implementing its “values” the world over. 

The Higher Committee for Human Fraternity was created in September and met with Catholic Cardinal Miguel Angel Ayudo Guixot in attendance as one of its nine members. Irina Bokova, former director-general of UNESCO, was later added as a member.

Pope Francis and Grand Imam Al-Tayeb of Al-Azhar University in Cairo, the original signatories of the Abu Dhabi Document, both sent video messages. Incidentally, the council of Egypt’s sunni Al-Azhar University recently named 2020 the year of Human Fraternity, in honor of the Document, and now teaches the principles of the Fraternity Document to its students.

The overall message of the events was that media and education need to transmit the message of the declaration as a sort of (obligatory) charter for peace and “mutual respect.”

This was made obvious by the launching of an Arab Media Convention, an initiative of the Muslim Council of Elders in Abu Dhabi, on February 3, and the participation of 150 young people from all over the world at the forum set up by the Higher Committee.

Another element put forward by the organizers was the hope to make other religions – but also non-believers – join the initiative, in close cooperation with the United Nations.

The Abu Dhabi Document was highly criticized by faithful Catholics because it says the “diversity” of religions was the fruit of the  “wise will of God.” This would imply that God directly wills error and false religions. While Pope Francis was later to say privately to Bishop Athanasius Schneider that he was speaking of the “permissive” will of God, no official clarification of the text was published.

Instead, the Document is being touted to international organizations, religions and states as well as educational authorities and media without any change.

The text contains other problematic elements insofar as it presents “tolerance” and “fraternity” among men as supreme values, with no mention of the true and Triune God or of the possibility of conversion. Islam prohibits conversion to Christianity and countries ruled by sharia law punish it by death.

This relativistic mindset could be found in the words of Msgr. Yoannis Gaid, secretary to Pope Francis and a member of the Higher Committee. Speaking to the press, he was quoted indirectly by Sister Bernadette Mary Reis of VaticanNews as saying “that young people have an important role in achieving the goals of the Document on Human Fraternity.” “He also said the Document itself is rooted in God’s will because all believers find their origin in God. It is God who gathers all of humanity into one family. Therefore, members of all religions are brothers and sisters,” she reported.

At the press conference, Judge Mohamed Abdel Salam, former adviser to the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar and Secretary of the Higher Committee, “cited a recent event involving Pope Francis as a concrete example of how the Document can be implemented: when the Pope made known his desire to welcome several refugee families, he made no distinction based on religion,” she wrote.

In the same vein, at the public conference of the Higher Committee, Msgr. Gaid revealed that Pope Francis had donated the full amount of the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity he received last year – and which from now on will be attributed each year – to the Muslim Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. He made no “distinction of religion,” said Msgr. Gaid.

No mention was made of persecuted Christians in Islamic countries at this point: not only the victims of terrorist groups but also “blasphemers” in Pakistan who can face trial and the death penalty if they are found guilty of that crime in sharia law.

Some damage control appears to be taking place on the part of Cardinal Miguel, who spoke with VaticanNews about the initiative. “We cannot and we can never renounce our own identity,” he told Sister Bernadette Reis. On the contrary, “among the conditions needed for promoting interreligious dialogue, is that of remaining always fully radicated in our own identity, in our own religious traditions.”

The goal is “not to create this melting pot of everybody but rather a rich, mixed salad,” he said later, adding that the “richness” of this “lies in unifying our different voices into a ‘beautiful sound of music,’ a ‘symphony of the world,’” she reported. 

The Cardinal was trying to make clear that Catholicism would not have to “change” in order to meet the requirements of Abu Dhabi. The problem with that is that it already has, with repeated declarations against proselytism, and of course, the signing of a Document in which it is said that God “wills” diversity and pluralism of religions. This implied that other religions or the faithful of those religions should not change either, and that truth plays a subordinate role to mutual understanding.

During the official celebration of the first anniversary of the Document on Human Fraternity at the Manarat al Saadiyat cultural center (literally: “place of awakening”) in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, a similar declaration was made by the Patriarch of Constantinople, also present.

This is how Sister Reis reported his remarks: “Patriarch Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople and the Eastern Orthodox Church (…) began saying it was a great joy for him to participate in the anniversary celebration. In a world of rapid change when new challenges are constantly appearing, the Patriarch said that a new stance is required by the world’s religions. Credibility of religious leaders, he continued, is measured by how they promote peace and engage in interreligious dialogue.”

Interreligious dialogue aims to promote understanding between different beliefs and traditions, if necessary at the cost of blacking out uncomfortable differences, including essential truths. For instance, there was no mention of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in Pope Francis’ message (nor anywhere in the Document and its unfolding story), but only of “God Almighty,” which is acceptable to Muslims. Speaking of the Most Holy Trinity would come over as what Islam decries: “associaters” or polytheists.

Also during the official celebration, Msgr. Gaid was quoted as follows: “Regarding diversity, he reiterated the point in the Document that it is part of God’s plan. The goals in the Document must be embraced by everyone on earth if the Document is to become a reality. He ended saying that the Document is a roadmap that needs to be enshrined in laws and inserted into educational curriculums.”

No longer is believing and living out the truths taught by the “universal” Catholic Church presented as the way to world peace (and to heaven). The Document is turning into new Commandments and a new relativistic Creed.

How? In schools and in the media.

The Arab Media Convention for Human Fraternity presented a model of its aim.

Judge Mohamed Abdel Salam, former adviser to the Grand Imam of Al-Azharn, was quoted as saying, “The media is at the heart of this great humanitarian project. The media is undoubtedly an active partner … and bears a large part of the responsibility, including the responsibility for its awareness, education and disseminating human values and principles.”

This is a far cry from freedom of the press. Journalists are being asked to adhere to the values of the Abu Dhabi Document and to make sure their readers share them too.

Paolo Ruffini, head of the Vatican Dicastery for Communication, was present at the convention. He was proud to announce that VaticanNews published 350 different articles in seven languages, including Arabic, about the Document on Human Fraternity.

“Agreements are underway for some television productions that the Dicastery intends to promote together with external partners in order to communicate the principles of the Document not only as information, but as true training for dialogue and mutual knowledge, and to have it as a guideline in our daily work,” he said.

He added, “Religions are not the problem. They are part of the solution because they can remind us that it is necessary to raise the heart upwards to the Most High to learn how to build the city of man.”

Which Most High? The true God? Idols? Buddha or Allah? And what is the “city of man?” It was the expression that St. Augustine used as opposed to the “City of God,” which shall prevail in the end after having been opposed by the “City of Man.”

The presence at the meetings of Bokova, the newest member of the Higher Committee, deserves a special mention. She was also in Abu Dhabi last year when Pope Francis and Imam Al-Tayeb signed the Document.

At the special anniversary meeting of the Higher Committee last Monday, she said, “I think it is important indeed to look at this document as a foundational document in our time when we see the rise of extremism, of hate speech and xenophobia.”

“Extremism,” “hate speech” and xenophobia” are the code words used to discredit the desire to protect one’s country from excessive immigration and disintegration in the “One World Order,” and to condemn those who proclaim that natural morality must be protected in the face of “LGBT rights.” They are the armed vocabulary of the dictatorship of relativism.

Bokova also welcomed the educational goals of the Document. “Young people can find answers in this Document, and it is in harmony with the fourth point of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals which targets education,” she remarked.

Speaking to La Croix International, Bokova called the Document “inclusive; it concerns all of humanity, those who are believers and those who are not,” insisting that education is one of its main goals.

“It is indeed one of the priorities of our committee. We were thinking about how we are going to integrate this document into the different education systems around the world,” she said. 

“We will certainly propose to the United Nations that February 4 become the International Day of Tolerance. It’s important to do that. But it will be for the UN General Assembly to decide,” she added, explaining that she hopes to be able to draw on her own experience within the UN system to push this initiative.

Her own experience is that of a former communist Nomenklatura member in Bulgaria, her home country. Her father was editor in chief of the Bulgarian Communist Party’s paper, Robonitchesko Delo, and a member of Politburo.

Bokova herself joined the Young members of the Communist Party during her teenage years, going on to obtain her education as a diplomat at the State Institute of International Relations in Moscow when the USSR was still going strong.

When communism visibly collapsed at the beginning of the 1990s, Bokova chose to enter into politics in the Bulgarian Socialist Party, which in fact recycled the former Communist Party.

Bokova was minister for foreign affairs in Prime minister Zhan Videnov’s government – also a former communist who was an agent of the Bulgarian branch of the KGB. Her bid for directorship at UNESCO was efficiently supported by Barack Obama, despite complaints from former prisoners of the Bulgarian Gulag.

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Jeanne Smits has worked as a journalist in France since 1987 after obtaining a Master of Arts in Law. She formerly directed the French daily Présent and was editor-in-chief of an all-internet French-speaking news site called She writes regularly for a number of Catholic journals (Monde & vie, L’Homme nouveau, Reconquête…) and runs a personal pro-life blog. In addition, she is often invited to radio and TV shows on alternative media. She is vice-president of the Christian and French defense association “AGRIF.” She is the French translator of The Dictator Pope by Henry Sire and Christus Vincit by Bishop Schneider, and recently contributed to the Bref examen critique de la communion dans la main about Communion in the hand. She is married and has three children, and lives near Paris.