Pope Francis this week called on the global community to practice mutual respect, saying that people can either choose to be brothers and sisters or lose everything.
“Today, there is no time for indifference,” said the pontiff in a message for the observance of the first International Day of Human Fraternity on Feb. 4.
Pope Francis said fraternity “means an outstretched hand. Fraternity means respect. Fraternity means listening with an open heart.”
“Fraternity means firmness in one’s own convictions” because “there is no true fraternity if one’s convictions are negotiated,” he added.
“It is the moment of listening. It is the moment of sincere acceptance. It is the moment of certainty that a world without brothers is a world of enemies,” the pope said.
The pope said “we cannot wash our hands” off the present situation with distance, disregard and contempt.
“We do not need to be at war, to be enemies, disregarding each other is enough,” he said, adding that it is time to stop the attitude of looking the other way and ignoring others as if they did not exist.
The pope was among several world and religious leaders who took part in the online event, which was hosted by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi.
Also in attendance were Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of al-Azhar University, and António Guterres, secretary general of the United Nations.
In his address, Pope Francis greeted the participants as “sisters and brothers” and affectionately greeted Sheikh el-Tayeb as “my brother, my friend, my companion in challenges and risks in the struggle for fraternity.”
The pope thanked the grand imam “for his company on the path of reflection and the drafting” of the document on human fraternity.
“Your testimony helped me a lot because it was a courageous testimony. I know it was not an easy task. But with you we could do it together and help each other. The most beautiful thing of all is that first desire of fraternity turned into true fraternity. Thank you, brother; thank you,” he said.
The pope also thanked Judge Mohamed Mahmoud Abdel Salam, secretary general of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity, for his efforts and lauded him as “hard-working, full of ideas” and one “who helped us to move forward.”
The pope said fraternity does not only mean respecting and listening to others “with an open heart,” but it also means remaining firm in one’s own convictions.