2021: A Platform for Human Fraternity

As 2020 comes to a close, we find ourselves looking back at one of the most turbulent years in recent memory. The global pandemic has forced millions around the world into lockdowns, with Coronavirus infections reaching tens of millions globally and tragically claiming approximately until now 2 million lives in the process. Whilst vaccines are on the way, the year ahead is still uncertain; self-isolation, working from home and social distancing will remain ‘the new normal’ well into 2021.

In these times, it is important that we demonstrate a renewed sense of optimism, cohesion and tolerance towards each other. Christmas has always been a celebration that embraces the spirit of connectedness amongst friends and family, and this year the Christian community, like other religious communities throughout the year, will be forced to celebrate in a different way.

The pandemic has already restricted religious life this year. The two Muslim Eids and the Jewish Hannukah have all been curtailed by lockdown restrictions: communities were forbidden from worshipping together, while family and friends could not congregate to mark the occasion.

Sadly, Christmas will be no different. Whilst leaders around the Christian world will take difficult decisions on allowing gatherings, there remains a need to preserve the social unity that is vital to humanity. Even in 2019, speaking in Abu Dhabi, Pope Francis called for fraternity among all faith leaders, saying “we will either build the future together or there will not be a future”, a message that is more crucial now than ever as the world looks to rebuild.

We have seen people of all faiths adapt, congregating in virtual settings, coming together to support one another by giving hope and comfort. Many religious institutions have been at the frontline of mitigating the impacts of Covid-19, comforting grieving families, providing communities with emergency food, shelter and much needed guidance and support, through an extraordinary interfaith response.

On May 14th, in a landmark event, millions of religious leaders and their followers from all ages and backgrounds responded to the ‘Prayer for Humanity’ initiative, initiated by the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity which was one of the biggest cries for human solidarity. In the wake of growing inter-ethnic tensions across the globe, this was a seminal moment, demonstrating that staying united will ultimately prevail and help us emerge from the current crisis.

These efforts culminated in the launch of the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity, which has been named in honor of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the Founding Father of the United Arab Emirates, who also established an inspirational model of tolerance and coexistence both within the UAE and abroad. It was Sheikh Zayed’s legacy, which would be carried on by his children, that would go on to serve as the biggest inspiration to the doctrine of human fraternity.

The $1M Zayed Award for Human Fraternity is not simply an award for those who dedicate their efforts towards achieving human fraternity but is rather a celebration of their efforts and a tool to encourage them to continue their noble work. Additionally, the award will serve as a global platform for all those working in the field of human fraternity to meet annually at its awards ceremony. During that time, it is hoped that expertise and visions are mutually shared, and that cooperation is built among participants, for human fraternity is a joint exercise between all those seeking to achieve it.

Despite its relative infancy, the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity aspires to be one of the most prominent international accolades in the world and those that choose to take the path of human fraternity must be aware that they are not alone in doing so. Two of the world’s biggest religious symbols have already taken the path of human fraternity; His Holiness Pope Francis, Pontiff of the Catholic Church and His Eminence Dr. Ahmed El-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar. In its first honorary edition, the prize was jointly awarded to the religious leaders for their efforts in promoting the values of fraternity, coexistence and peace following the historic signing of the Document on Human Fraternity on the 4th of February 2019 in Abu Dhabi. This historic event has been the inspiration behind the unanimous decision of the United Nations General Assembly to observe February 4th as The International Day of Human Fraternity.

The world we live in is in dire need of empathy and unity that can help serve humanity. The Higher Committee of Human Fraternity will continue to support such efforts through initiatives that target all humans regardless of their gender, ethnicity or religious beliefs with the eventual aim of establishing a better world for future generations.

As we move towards the New Year, it is crucial to make sure we take with us the positive lessons from 2020 and the ways in which the crisis has brought us together. New friendships have been forged and communities, despite being apart, have found new ways to congregate. Many countries clapped symbolically for their health services, while volunteers around the world have supported front-line workers and the people of many nations sang together on their balconies.

These are the experiences we should keep in our hearts as we strive to look towards a dawning awareness of solidarity and human fraternity.

Judge Mohammed A. Salam
Judge Mohammed A. Salam
Secretary General of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity