In an interview with Emirati media outlet, Al-Ittihad, Pope Francis talks about the importance of human fraternity and condemns a recent burning of a Quran.
“Any book considered sacred by its people must be respected out of respect for its believers,” said Pope Francis in an interview with the Emirati media outlet Al-Ittihad, published July 3, 2023. He said he was “indignant and disgusted” by the burning of a Quran in Sweden on June 28.
“Freedom of expression must never be used as an excuse to despise others, and allowing this must be rejected and condemned,” the Pontiff added, when asked by the Emirati journalist about this incident.
An Iraqi-born Swedish refugee activist tore up and burnt pages of the Quran in front of the Great Mosque of Stockholm during the Eid al-Adha celebrations on June 28. He was calling for Islam’s sacred text to be banned in his country. He was later charged with agitation against an ethnic or national group.
The importance of promoting human fraternity
In the interview the Pontiff also recalled his visit to the United Arab Emirates, which took place in February 2019. During this trip Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar signed the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living together, a text advocating for interreligious cooperation in favor of peace. He said he was “very pleased with the global community’s acceptance and understanding of the document’s message.”
“It is a road map for anyone who chooses with courage to be a peacemaker in our world torn apart by war, violence, hatred and terrorism,” Francis said. “Human brotherhood is the antidote the world needs to heal from the poison of these wounds.”
The Pope also praised the work of the President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, in his country and around the world, in favor of peace, tolerance, and education. Francis also encouraged the charity associations and institutions, without naming any specifically, that have put into practice tangibly the ideals promoted in the document.
Helping young people
In fact the Pope explained that these efforts are especially important for young people who need to be protected “from negative messages and false and fabricated news, and from the temptations of materialism, hatred and prejudice.”
The best way to do this “is not to leave them alone in this battle, but to give them the necessary tools, which are freedom, discernment, and responsibility,” the Pope continued.
“Freedom is what distinguishes a person. God created us free even to reject Him,” he said. “Today we can no longer force our youth not to think, ask questions, and doubt, because questioning is the path to truth, and because freedom of conscience, freedom of belief, freedom of thought and expression are essential to help them grow and learn.”
A summary of the interview was also published on Vatican News, the Holy See’s official media outlet.