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Muslims in the Middle East urged to ’embrace’ Christians

Pope Francis greets visitors with special emphasis on the children. (Bradley Weber/Flickr)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The head of Sunni Islam’s highest seat of learning has urged Muslims in the Middle East to “embrace” local Christians.

Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of Cairo’s Al-Azhar Mosque, made the call on February 4 during an interfaith meeting in the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) attended by Pope Francis.

The head of the Roman Catholic Church, who is on his first official visit to the Arabian Peninsula, called for a halt to wars in the Middle East, citing the conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and Libya.

Sheikh Ahmed and Pope Francis addressed the gathering in Abu Dhabi after signing a document calling on world leaders to work together to “spread the culture of tolerance.”

The Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together also condemns those using God’s name to justify violence.

Members of religious minorities have been attacked repeatedly by extremists in countries across the Middle East in recent years. They have also faced legal and social discrimination, as well as restrictions on their ability to practice their faith.

On February 5, Francis was set to celebrate an outdoor mass in Abu Dhabi expected to draw 120,000 people.