WCC in discussions at UN side event on historic document signed by Pope Francis in United Arab Emirates

Posted on Sep 19, 2019

World Council of Churches

18 September 2019

The World Council of Churches (WCC) is currently working on learning from its member churches and other partners about the realities around the world of racism, discrimination, and xenophobia, WCC director of international affairs Peter Prove has told a gathering at the United Nations in Geneva.

Prove, director of the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, Prove was speaking on 17 September at a side event during the 42nd UN Human Rights Council from 9 – 27 September at the Palais des Nations.

Titled, “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together,” it was sponsored by the United Arab Emirates, Egyptian and Holy See missions to the UN in Geneva and was a response to the historic visit of Pope Francis to the United Arab Emirates in February.

Image: Peter Prove, director of the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, speaking at a side event during the 42nd UN Human Rights Council. Photo: Peter Kenny/WCC

Peter Prove, director of the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, speaking at a side event during the 42nd UN Human Rights Council. Photo: Peter Kenny/WCC

Prove spoke on behalf of WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, who was in Madrid addressing an international meeting of the Community of Sant’Egidio. That meeting was on the same topic as that dealt with in Geneva which Prove said should be brought into the open, discussed and acted upon.

“Of course, in every family, there are differences and challenges, often challenges relating to how we handle those differences,” he said.

“But in every family, there is – or should be – something that keeps us together and helps us overcome problems and failures. And that essential thing is love. With love, life in a family is a blessing.”

During the United Arab Emirates meeting, Pope Francis had signed a declaration with Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, the grand imam of al-Azhar, which the United Arab Emirates ambassador said brought Muslims and Christians closer together, enhancing cooperation between people and nations.

The session was chaired by the United Arab Emirates ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Obaid Salem Saeed Al Zaabi. There were lively interventions from the envoys of Egypt, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Iran and a person from Yemen. Also speaking from the floor was a representative of the Bahai faith, also Arigatou International as well as female students from Zayed University in the United Arab Emirates.

Al Zaabi said that the United Arab Emirates has set up a committee for a plan of action for the document and to implement what Pope Francis called “a new page in the relationships between Christianity and Islam.”

Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič, who heads the Holy See Mission to the UN in Geneva, read a message from the president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, newly chosen Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot.

He said the document is “a milestone on the path of interreligious dialogue”. He added: “It is also a point of departure and a day-to-day commitment for the common good to heal our wounded world.”

Jurkovič quoted Pope Francis’s words in the United Arab Emirates: “Either we build a future together or there will be no future.”

Pope Francis says pilgrimage to UAE is a new page in Christian-Islam dialogue (WCC press release 07 February 2019)

Global conference on promoting peace cultivates ‘one human family’ (WCC press release 21 May 2019)