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Pope Francis, Grand Imam reunite to honor UN head, Arab activist with UAE Zayed award

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Pope Francis and Grand Imam of al-Azhar Ahmed Al-Tayeb will reunite in an event hosted in Abu Dhabi on Thursday to honor the head of the United Nations and a Moroccan-French activist.

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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Moroccan-French activist Latifa Ibn Ziaten will both accept the 2021 Zayed Award for Human Fraternity, a $1 million prize that recognizes individuals who are global role models in the facilitation of peaceful coexistence.

Guterres has served as Secretary-General of the UN since 2017. Ibn Ziaten is an activist against religious extremism, who started speaking out following the death of her son in a terrorist attack in 2012.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, left, and Moroccan-French activist Latifa Ibn Ziaten, right. (AP)
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, left, and Moroccan-French activist Latifa Ibn Ziaten, right. (AP)

Guterres said in a statement on Wednesday that he feels “honored” to receive the award and applauded the leadership of the Pope and Grand Imam. Ibn Ziaten said she was humbled and hoped the award would “raise awareness” about addressing extremism through dialogue.

The virtual event, hosted in Abu Dhabi and available via livestream, coincides with the UN’s first ever International Day of Human Fraternity.

The date was chosen to take place exactly two years after Pope Francis’ historic trip to Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, in 2019.

Pope Francis greets Ahmed Al-Tayeb, the grand imam of Egypt's Al-Azhar, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on Feb. 4, 2019.  (AP)
Pope Francis greets Ahmed Al-Tayeb, the grand imam of Egypt's Al-Azhar, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on Feb. 4, 2019. (AP)

During the 2019 visit, which marked the first papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula, the Pope and Grand Imam Al-Tayyeb signed the Document on Human Fraternity.

The two spiritual leaders also became the first recipients of the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity, named after late founder of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

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The legacy of the interreligious visit has continued in the UAE with the establishment of top-level peacebuilding organization, the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity (HCHF), which is made up of diverse international religious leaders and scholars.

Late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan at the Elysee Palace on July 4, 1975. (AP)
Late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan at the Elysee Palace on July 4, 1975. (AP)

The organization opened nominations in October for the 2021 Zayed Award for Human Fraternity.

The HCHF is also spearheading the Abrahamic Family House in Abu Dhabi, an interfaith complex that will consist of a Jewish synagogue, a Christian church, and a Muslim mosque. Currently under construction, it is expected to be completed in 2022.

An artist's illustration of the Abrahamic Family House to be built in Abu Dhabi. (Courtesy: Edelman)
An artist's illustration of the Abrahamic Family House to be built in Abu Dhabi. (Courtesy: Edelman)

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