Interfaith Project: The Abrahamic Family House Seeks to Bring Tolerance

For Human Fraternity

An interfaith project seeking to encourage “peaceful coexistence and acceptance” of the three Abrahamic faiths of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, is building a trio of new multifaith temples in the UAE.

What is interfaith?

The word interfaith describes an interaction between people of different religions or faith traditions, according to the United Religions Initiative.

Under interfaith cooperation, the aim is not to combine all religions into one, which is a chief concern of many opponents of the idea; nor is it about renouncing any specific religion.

Interfaith, in general, is concerned with reinforcing that idea that every human being deserves respect, regardless of their belief tradition or religion.

Challenges of making interfaith work

At least three challenges need to be met, according to the Berkeley Center.

First, the goals must be clear in any interfaith dialogue.

Second, interfaith is about helping all parties understand each other’s religion better, but all parties should agree to disagree. An example comes from Chapter 109, verse 6 of the Qur’an: “For you is your religion, and for me is my religion.”

Third, the idea of respect comes from not trying to proselytize or convert others. That very notion is antithetical to the idea of respecting one another’s differences.

Idea born out of promotion of interfaith by the Pope

In February 2019, Pope Francis made a visit to the UAE. The result of that meeting was the signing of a joint declaration between the Pope and the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, with the aim of promoting human fraternity, or interfaith, CNN reports.

The building of the complex was also announced in February by Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince. The complex will be located on Saadiyat Island, near the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

The Abrahamic Family House

In Abu Dhabi, the capitol city of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a trio of temples are being developed in a common an interfaith complex called “The Abrahamic Family House.” The complex that will contain a Temple of worship for each of the three faiths: A church, mosque and synagogue.

It’s all part of an effort to foster “peaceful coexistence and acceptance” between these three major world religions that all developed from the same single common patriarch, Abraham.

In that spirit, the three buildings will share the same single foundation.

Designs revealed

In September 2019, award-winning architect David Adjaye revealed some of the visuals of the complex in a YouTube video, dezeen reported.

“I believe architecture should work to enshrine the kind of world we want to live in, a world of tolerance, openness, and constant advancement,” Adjaye explained about his design strategy. “As an architect I want to create a building that starts to dissolve the notion of hierarchical difference – it should represent universality and totality – something higher that enhances the richness of human life.”

Will interfaith religion ever work?

The idea of interfaith draws a myriad of viewpoints. In principle, the idea of religions coming together to peacefully coexist, seems like a noble one.

However, many people think, such a notion will never succeed. They cite repressive Islamic regimes and terrorists as examples of those who have no tolerance for people outside their religion and are willing to kill nonbelievers.

Pope Francis: Advocate of interfaith and interreligious solidarity

Pope Francis has been a tireless advocate for interfaith and interreligious solidarity, something that hasn’t always been supported by others within the Catholic faith, as well as in many other Christian faiths.

The Vatican is seeking to bring faiths together for the common good of protecting human rights, protecting the planet in providing service for those in need.

In July, the Geneva interfaith forum called for the protection of human rights amid the twin crisis is of climate change in COVID-19. The statement also asserted that, around the world, “women have less access to basic human rights” and “face systemic discrimination and sexual and gender-based violence” that escalates during times of instability, such as is occurring now.

Interestingly, the Catholic Church does not allow women or known LGBTQ persons to become priests, seemingly contradicting the message against gender discrimination.

In a global G20 interfaith forum, the Vatican advocated for policy recommendations to deal with the ongoing pandemic, as well as climate change, hunger, poverty, and loss of livelihoods. Interfaith played a key role in addressing Africa’s challenges in particular, Vatican News reported in August.

The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID) and the World Council of Churches (WCC) released a joint document in August calling for interreligious solidarity in providing service to the world amid the COVID-19 crisis.