SHAFAQNA- Pope Francis and Moroccan king sign appeal urging that Al-Quds remain open to all faiths. They called for full freedom of access for Jews, Muslims and Christians and a guarantee of their right to worship there.
Pope Francis arrives in the Kingdom of Morocco on his first-ever visit to the Maghreb region of Northern Africa, and receives a warm welcome to the mainly-Muslim country.
A two-day visit aimed at boosting Christian-Muslim ties and showing solidarity with Morocco’s ever-growing migrant community.
Pope Francis and Morocco’s King Mohammed VI called on Saturday for the protection of Al-Quds’s multi-religious character, saying the city’s sacred sites must be accessible to worshippers of all faiths.
“We consider it important to preserve the Holy City of Al-Quds Acharif as the common patrimony of humanity and especially for the followers of the three monotheistic religions, as a place of encounter and as a symbol of peaceful coexistence, where mutual respect and dialogue can be cultivated,” said the joint appeal, using the Arab name for the Holy City.
They called for “full freedom of access” for Jews, Muslims and Christians and a guarantee of their right to worship there, Reuters reported.
The appeal comes at a time of strong political tensions and pressure in Israel, and on the eve of the Israeli elections. It also comes after Donald Trump reversed decades of United States foreign policy in 2017 and transferred the U.S. embassy to Al-Quds and recognized the city as the capital of Israel. A small number of other countries have followed suit. This, together with ongoing periodic restrictions on access for Muslims and Christians to their respective holy sites in Jerusalem, has raised profound concerns in the Vatican and in Muslim countries, according to America magazine. King Abdullah II of Jordan, who has a responsibility for the holy sites, came to Rabat some days ago and is said to have pleaded for support to maintain the status of Jerusalem.
Morocco would continue to be a model of humanity
Pope Francis praised Morocco as a model of religious moderation and migrant welcome as he kicked off a trip to the kingdom Saturday, warning that walls and fear-mongering won’t stop people from exercising their legitimate right to seek a better life elsewhere.
Morocco last year became the main destination for sub-Saharan African migrants seeking to reach Europe via Spain. The influx has strained the kingdom’s resources and fueled anti-migrant sentiment in Spain ahead of its April 28 general election, time mentioned .
Francis told the king that he hoped Morocco would continue to be a model of humanity, welcome and protection for migrants.
Rather, he called for a change of attitude toward migrants that respects them as people, worthy of dignity and rights, and not just statistics. He said world leaders must address the economic imbalances and unrest on Earth that fuel conflicts and migration flows.
“Today’s grave migration crisis represents an urgent summons for concrete actions aimed at eliminating the causes that force many people to leave country and family behind, often only to find themselves marginalized and rejected,” he said.
Bridges between Christians and Muslims
While in the UAE, the Pope and the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayeb, signed an historic document that pledges peace between nations, religions, and races. The declaration further affirms its opposition to extremism. The visit to Morocco is therefore yet another opportunity for Pope Francis to continue building bridges between Christians and Muslims.
Morocco, a Sunni Muslim kingdom of 36 million, reformed its religious policies and education to limit the spread of fundamentalism in 2004, following terrorist bombings in Casablanca in 2003 that killed 43 people. Christians are a tiny minority in Morocco where 99 percent of the population is Muslim.
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