Egypt’s Grand Imam: Christians and Muslims suffer together in Middle East

sheikh-ahmed-mohamed-el-tayeb(Reuters/Max Rossi)Pope Francis exchanges gifts with Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb (L), Egyptian Imam of al-Azhar Mosque, at the Vatican, May 23, 2016.

By Lorraine Caballero,

The Egyptian Grand Imam has called on religions to unite in working for peace because both Christians and Muslims are suffering due to the violence in the Middle East.

On Monday, the Grand Imam of Egypt’s al-Azhar mosque met with Pope Francis in the Vatican and appealed for worldwide unity to end the bloodshed in the Middle East. Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb said the atrocities should not be referred to as “persecution of Christians” because Muslims make up the largest number of victims, Crux relays.

The Grand Imam also said terrorists who kill Muslims and Christians have wrongly interpreted the text of Islam. He urged people not to blame religions because each group has deviants who use their faith as an excuse to kill other people.

“This is my appeal to the world and to the freemen of the world: to come to an agreement immediately and to intervene to put an end to these rivers of blood,” the Grand Imam told theVatican Radio and newspaper L’Osservatore Romano in an interview.

El-Tayeb recalled a conference in the al-Azhar Mosque last year. After the gathering, Muslim and Christian leaders called on people not to confuse terrorists with Muslims. The Grand Imam said Muslims and Christians are partners who both have the right to the land.

In addition, el-Tayeb called on religious leaders to guide their followers to a direction of mercy and peace. This move, he says, would help stir humanity out of the current suffering.

El-Tayeb came to the Vatican for the purpose of calling for unity among religions to achieve peace. This is the first time that a Grand Imam of al-Azhar has conducted such a visit.

The meeting between Pope Francis and the Egyptian Grand Imam also marks the first time that the Vatican has resumed its dialog with al-Azhar in five years. The crowd that witnessed the meeting on Monday reached around 2.5 billion people.

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