We are all connected

Sent On: 
Thu, 2020-03-26
Newsletter Number: 

If there is one thing that the coronavirus crisis shows it is that the entire world is very interconnected. The virus does not stop at borders and thus the metaphor of Dr. Mahmoud Hamdi Zakzouk [Maḥmūd Ḥamdī Zaqzūq], former Minister of Endowments in Egypt and a major engine behind the Egyptian Family House [Bayt al-ʿĀʾila], in which Egyptian Muslim and Christian leaders cooperate, comes to mind: the world is like a ship in a huge ocean and we humans are the crew on that ship. If we, the crew, that is humanity, do not cooperate, the ship will never reach its destination. Earth is like a ship in the huge universe. It is not this country first or that country first. Disunity will create havoc or worse. We need to join hands in fighting this virus. We also need to build unity between all humans since we are in the same boat. Thus, the virus should motivate us to dialogue, build relations, in particular across the borders of our own communities.


From left to right:  Dr. Muḥyī al-Dīn ʿAfīfī, president of the Islamic Research Center at al-Azhar, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran (1943-2018), at the time president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, representing HH Pope Francis, Egyptian Ambassador ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Mūsā (now working at Mashīkhah al-Azhar), Dr. Ḥamdī Zaqzūq, Msgr Khālid ʿUkāsha, since 1994 a member of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Dr. Ḥassan Wajīh.


These are times to call good friends. Yesterday I spoke with Dr. Hassan Wagieh [Ḥassan Wajīh], professor of Linguistics and Political Science at the Azhar University and acclaimed expert in intercultural negotiations.We spoke about this metaphor of Dr. Ḥamdī Zaqzūq.  This metaphor comes, Dr. Wajīh  says, from a hadith. Beautiful. We need to recognize that different religious traditions have stories and metaphors that encourage us.


Following our call Dr. Ḥassan Wajīh wrote a few words that I would like to share with you:


Dear Kees,


I felt very happy after your very nice telephone call to me tonight because I was deeply thinking of all the people whom I met in this isolated and distressed world now ...friends whom I now can’t reach across this small Globe. They live in several parts of  the world and I  would like to ask about them ...so  I visited  them in my inner thoughts ...among them in particular were the members of the negotiating team from the Vatican who interacted with our negotiating team at Al-Azhar  in 2016 to pave the way for restoring relations between the Vatican and the Muslim world which, in turn, paved the way for Pope Francis‘ historic visit to Cairo in 2017 which in turn paved the way for the Pope and the Grand Imam of the Azhar signing the historic Document on “Human fraternity for World Peace and Living Together,” in the United Arab Emirates on February 4, 2019.  


The Grand Imam delegated me in 2017 to participate in a World Conference to launch a new Interfaith and Intercultural Diplomacy as suggested by the German Federal Foreign Office in Berlin. I rejoiced to meet with many of the same members of the Vatican negotiating team at that time that I had met earlier. We felt a sense of strong unity as close relatives of the Mediterranean and human family.


                Conference in al-Azhar, Cairo, Egypt 


I remember all of them now in this very stressed and difficult time. Many came from Italy which is now so much hit by the virus. I recall these days and pray that everyone is safe. I recall these good days through these pictures. I hope and pray these moments of blessed unity will come back in a more humane world.


March 26, 2020 


Stay safe,