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Top Sunni cleric affirms commitment to peace after meeting with Pope

May 24, 2016

Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the head of Egypt's Al Azhar University, affirmed his commitment to peace and the elimination of terrorism in an interview with Vatican broadcast media on May 24, the day after his historic meeting with Pope Francis.

The Sunni Muslim cleric insisted that Islam does not condone terrorism. He said that "in every religion there exists a deviant faction that raises the flag of religion to kill in its name." But he said that Al Azhar-- the leading intellectual institution in the Sunni world-- would continue to work against extremism.

Al Azhar has been reviewing texts used in Islamic schools to eliminate distorted teachings about other faiths, the imam said. He added that the Egyptian institution sponsors a Muslim Council of Elders, which sends delegations to other countries to combat extremism and encourage a moderate understanding of Islam.

Questioned about the violence in the Middle East, Sheikh el-Tayeb said that "there is no logical reason for this catastrophe that we are living day and night." But he said that the bloodshed should not be seen as a war of Muslims against Christians, noting that more Muslims than Christians have been the victims of terrorist violence.

The Egyptian imam said that he was pleased with his meeting with Pope Francis, and heaped praise on the Pontiff:

He is a man of peace, a man who follows the teaching of Christianity, which is a religion of love and peace, and following His Holiness we have seen that he is a man who respects other religions and shows consideration for their followers; he is man who also consecrates his life to serve the poor and the destitute, and who takes responsibility for people in general; he is an ascetic man, who has renounced the ephemeral pleasures of worldly life. All these are qualities that we share with him, and therefore we wish to encounter this man in order to work together for humanity in this vast field we have in common. 


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