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Pope Francis, left, and Sheikh Ahmed El Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Egypt's Al-Azhar, exchange a joint statement on "human fraternity" after an interfaith meeting at the Founder's Memorial in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: AFP

Abu Dhabi: The global response to COVID-19 will require people of all faiths to work together as the world faces a challenge like never before; that was the message from the UAE’s Higher Committee of Human Fraternity (HCHF), as the body prepares for its upcoming pray for humanity event on Thursday.

Set to be marked globally, May 14 has been dedicated as a day for fasting, works of mercy, prayers, and supplications for the good of all humanity according to the HCHF, with the organisaton encouraging followers of all major religions to take part according to their own religious rites and customs.

The initiative has already received support from several religious bodies representing Islam, Christianity, Judaism and other faiths, with figures such as Pope Francis and Dr Ahmad El Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar and chairman of the Muslim Council of Elders lending their backing to the call.

“The support for this initiative is clear proof of our ability – especially when facing common challenges – to put aside our disagreements and ideologies [and] to unite under the banner of our human fraternity,” said Mohammad Abdel Salam, secretary general of HCHF, during an online press conference on Monday night.

“We call on people from all over the world, each according to their own faith, to pray to God almighty to help humankind overcome the coronavirus pandemic and to help scientists create a vaccine to rid the world of this dangerous virus,” he added, also highlighting how the global pandemic has already managed to unite many countries together in their joint fight against the novel virus.

Unite or fall

Monsignor Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, personal secretary to Pope Francis, and a member of the HCFC, in a blunt message said that humanity faces the option of uniting or falling in its fight again the coronavirus.

“It is the first time for mankind to gather for one goal; to pray together, each according to his faith and religion, to ensure that faith in God unites us and does not divide us.

[COVID-19] made us realise how vulnerable we are… We cannot overcome this crisis separately, either we survive it together or no one will survive it,” he said.

Irina Bokova, former director general of UNESCO, said the road ahead would not be easy, pointing to the major contractions in global economies and the high rates of unemployment.

“The world is entering an extremely dangerous period with severe consequences for peace and security. The virus does not know geographical or political borders, political systems of ethnic and religious divides. It hits everywhere and everyone.

“This is the greatest peacetime challenge that humanity as a whole has ever faced. The threat is global and needs a global response. In humanity’s recent history, there has never been a moment when global action and solidarity were so important,” she added, explaining the positive message being sent out by the prayer for humanity initiative.

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Pujya Brahmavihari Swami, Leader of the Hindu Community and Head of BAPS Hindu Mandir in Abu Dhabi Image Credit: Supplied

Hindu community in Abu Dhabi supports call to prayer

Among many religions to be taking part in Thursday’s Day of Prayer is the local Hindu community.

Pujya Brahmavihari Swami, Leader of the Hindu Community and Head of BAPS Hindu Mandir in Abu Dhabi, expressed his pride to be joining the prayer, describing it as an “inspirational initiative to get humanity at large united in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.”