Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed Al-Tayeb met with French President François Holland on Tuesday in Paris, along with a delegation from Al-Azhar currently on a tour of Europe that aims to restore dialogue between scholars from the East and West.
The meetings tackled regional developments and both sides’ roles in spreading peace and coexistence locally and globally, as well as bolstering bilateral efforts in the fight against terrorism.
Al-Tayeb is currently attending an East-West dialogue conference in Paris. During his opening speech at the conference, referring to the recent Paris attacks, he said: “there is no difference between terrorism attacks in the East and in the West; both have the same negative effects.”
He added: “in the West, however, those bloody incidents are much more frequent, resulting in a huge number of casualties and refugees.” Further, he called on international leaders to take on the responsibility for ending this bloodshed.
Al-Tayeb’s visit to Paris followed a remarkable meeting with Pope Francis on Monday in which both sides resumed dialogue after five years of suspended talks.
The Grand Imam’s visit to the Vatican is an important and historic event that comes at a crucial time, Egypt’s ambassador to the Holy See Hatem Seif said.
“Religious leaders worldwide need to increase efforts for coexistence and unity, in light of what the world is facing from extremist terror attacks and conflicts,” he said in an official statement.
According to Seif, Al-Azhar plans to organise an international conference on world peace and bring together scholars, Muslims, Christians, and Jews, by the end of this year in Egypt. He further noted that Al-Tayeb invited Francis to visit Egypt during their meeting.
Al-Azhar-Vatican talks were suspended during the papacy of then pope Benedict XVI in 2011.
However, in December 2013, a Vatican delegation visited Cairo following the appointment of Pope Francis. Francis initiated the restoration of relations with with Al-Azhar “for the sake of humanity”, he said in a message. Another Vatican delegation visited Cairo in February.