Vatican-backed interfaith complex to open in 2022
June 16, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – The “Abrahamic Family House,” a juxtaposition of three places of worship on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi – one Muslim, one Jewish and one Christian – will open in 2022, according to a release from Higher Committee of Human Fraternity echoed by the Abu Dhabi Government Media Office and by Vatican News, the Vatican’s own media service run by the Dicastery for Communication.
The “Abrahamic Family House” is an architectural complex in which the three so-called “Abrahamic” religions, or (abusively), the “religions of the Book” born of God’s promise to Abraham, are presented side by side in places of worship of equal proportions, set in a triangle around a “common ground,” a garden where believers can meet and enter into “dialogue” with each other.
The projected interfaith complex presents itself as an embodiment of the Abu Dhabi Document on Human Fraternity signed by Pope Francis and Imam Al-Tayeb of the Sunni Al-Azhar University of Cairo, and the “Higher Committee for Human Fraternity” to which the joint declaration gave birth, and has been “endorsed” and is being “closely followed” both by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam.
Together with photos of the construction site, which show the foundations of the three religious buildings while one of them appears to be nearing completion, the release revealed the names officially chosen for the three religious buildings.
The synagogue will bear the name of Moses Ben Maimon Synagogue, named after a 12th-century Sephardic rabbi who is commonly compared to the Muslim thinker Averroes, born in Cordoba as Maimon was. Both are touted as innovators who sought to reconcile faith and reason, and presented as having adopted this “modern” point of view before the Catholic philosophers such as Saint Thomas Aquinas.
Averroes was rejected in his time as a heretic by the Islamic community. Maimon, under the persecution of the Christians and the Jews by the Muslim occupiers of Al Andaluz, was forced to flee his home town with his family, possibly after a forced conversion to Islam, and went on to Egypt where he would write abundantly, opposing the literal interpretation of the Talmud and seeking to conciliate Judaism and philosophy.
The mosque will receive the name of Imam Al-Tayeb himself, presumably as a homage to his implication in the whole project. In a recent, syrupy book by Mohammad Abdulsalam, a close collaborator of Al-Tayeb at Al-Azhar University and the man who played a major role in the development of the Document and the Higher Committee, the Grand Imam is presented as an eminent scholar of Islam endowed with all possible qualities, including, of course, an unsurpassable “humbleness” that makes him reject any kind of flattery.
In The Pope and the Grand Imam: A Thorny Path: A Testimony to the Birth of the Human Fraternity Document, Abdulsalam presents his master, page after page as “a man of the greatest honor and integrity, and of noble birth.” One of the book’s major conclusions is that “no one system or doctrine should claim to be superior to any other system or doctrine.”
This does not really square with the fundamental idea of Islam that holds that all individuals are originally Islamic and should return to this “true faith” if they are not yet Muslims, with hellfire promised to all those who resist. Nor does it agree with rational thought in that it holds that different, contradictory ideas or doctrines should be at the same level and therefore in a way simultaneously true – unless if dogma and tenets of different faiths are seen as mere cultural differences in a world where dogma is seen as the ultimate evil: this is the Masonic viewpoint.
It should be added that in Islam, the concept of Taqiyya allows for a precautionary dissimulation or denial of religious beliefs and practice in countries where Islam is not dominant, while working for the expansion of the Ummah – the Islamic community.
Abdusalam’s book also explains that “Today, men of faith are facing a new reality with voices that call for atheism as a way of life, denying the values that bring communities together, breaking the unity of the family, promoting immoral sexual behavior, and fomenting racism and hatred.”
While cooperation in favor of natural law is a legitimate endeavor, the problem remains of fostering religious confusion and relativism by putting different and in fact incompatible religions on the same plane as is being done in the “Abrahamic Family House.” This was also the mindset of the Abu Dhabi Document that said:
The pluralism and the diversity of religions, color, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings. This divine wisdom is the source from which the right to freedom of belief and the freedom to be different derives.
This is a faulty presentation of religious freedom, which is properly defined as meaning that none should be prevented from embracing the true faith, and none should be constrained to embrace it, by creating a confusion between culture and belief. It shows God as positively willing false religions when Our Lord, who is the Truth and the Way, instead commanded His disciples to go forth and baptize all nations in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. For Islam, at any rate, the mere mention of God, of the Holy Trinity, in such a way, is blasphemous.
As to the Christian church in the Saadiyat Island project, it was not clear at the beginning of the plans whether it would be generically “Christian,” so to speak, or Catholic. With the unveiling of its name, the “Saint Francis Church,” underscored on the Human Fraternity website with architect’s impressions of the interior of the finished building showing an obviously Catholic nun, plus the close implication of the Vatican which is amply represented in the Higher Committee for Human Fraternity, appears as a Catholic church.
Why Saint Francis? Many Islamic media repeat the same line: The three places of worship have been named after Dr Ahmed Al Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar; Pope Francis, Head of the Catholic Church; and Moses Ben Maimon, 12th century Jewish philosopher.” This rather hasty canonization of Pope Francis is probably due to ignorance on the part of the Emirati press regarding Catholic facts and vocabulary.
While the name “Francis” was certainly chosen to honor the present Pope, it in reality refers to Saint Francis of Assisi, whose evangelic zeal and love of nature are often invoked in a somewhat twisted way to turn him into the model not only of “green” ecologism, but of inter-religious dialogue, because at Damiette, in 1219, he went to speak with the sultan, head of the Muslim enemy of the Crusade.
Contemporary accounts described the meeting as fraught with danger, with Francis facing the Islamic chief “as Christ facing Pilate.” It was only in later centuries that the scene was turned into the amiable dialogue of mutually respectful representatives of different religions.
The Abrahamic Family House project has the support of the United Arab Emirates. Launched in 2019, it has now reached 20 percent completion and is expected to be inaugurated next year together with a cultural center, the fourth main construction on the site.
Vatican News comments: “As such, the complex innovatively recounts the history and builds bridges between human civilizations and heavenly messages. (…) Besides the 3 places of worship, the site includes a cultural center that aims to encourage people to exemplify human fraternity and solidarity within a community that cherishes the values of mutual respect and peaceful coexistence, while the unique character of each faith is preserved.”
The Emirati press gave its own commentary:
The design is characterized by an iconic geometric architecture of three cubes that evokes the features of traditional architecture and preserves its uniqueness.
The structures will represent the unified commonality and mutual coexistence between the three religions while evoking the traditional architecture and retaining the individualism of each of the three faiths. […]
In addition, the complex will offer a variety of daily programmes and activities and will host international conferences and world summits that promote harmonious coexistence within communities.
For more gobbledygook, the forhumanfraternity.org website offered these enthusiastic, if obscure comments from prize-winning African architect Sir David Adjaye:
We were led towards these powerful plutonic forms with a clear geometry, three cubes sitting on a plinth – though not aligned, they each have different orientations. The story then starts to become apparent through the power of the silhouette, unified with commonality and the articulation of the three forms. These structures represent a safe space, each volume illustrated with colonnades, screens and vaults to represent the sacred nature.
Our discovery continued with the common ground, the public space in-between, where the difference connects. I saw the garden as a powerful metaphor, this safe space where community, connection and civility combine – this space exists between the three chambers, the three faiths. The podium allows you to interact with each space, there’s no preventative threshold, and this way you dissolve the perceptions of not being included and encourage the celebration of this collective history and collective identity.
And this is only a start. The Higher Committee for Human Fraternity hopes to expand in the future, as its website signals to the rest of the world:
Today, we are religious leaders representing Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Tomorrow, we hope to represent many more –those seeking to bring peace through mutual understanding. We aspire to have an impact at a global scale–and we soon will be sharing that emerging purpose and vision with influential and prominent leaders from different religions, organizations, governments and more.