Ryan Dagur – Catholic-majority Timor-Leste will be the first country in the world to adopt a papal-endorsed document promoting peace and harmony between Christians and Muslims.
All 60 parliamentarians at the plenary session on May 12 agreed to the adoption of the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together that President-elect Jose Ramos-Horta hopes to implement in the school curriculum to maintain interfaith harmony and peace.
The document, which seeks to promote a "culture of mutual respect" between Christians and Muslims, was signed on Feb. 4, 2019, by Pope Francis and Ahmed el-Tayyeb, the grand imam of Al-Azhar, in Abu Dhabi during the pope's visit to the United Arab Emirates. Hence, the document is also known as the Abu Dhabi Declaration.
Ramos-Horta has actively lobbied lawmakers for its adoption. He also discussed it with former prime minister Mari Alkatiri, a Muslim, during their meeting on April 28.
"Timor-Leste will be the first country in the world to adopt the document into the school curriculum," he said. "It will teach school children about religion, ethnicity, social class and political tolerance in society,"
Parliament Speaker Aniceto Guterres said he would meet Monsignor Marco Sprizzi, the apostolic nunciature's charge d'affaires, to submit the decree regarding the adoption.
He added that the official state announcement regarding the adoption would be made on May 20 as part of the inauguration of the president-elect.
Ramos-Horta said it was important for Timor-Leste as a Catholic-majority country in Asia to maintain its reputation "as a country free from religiously motivated violence."
Nobel laureate Ramos-Horta is a committee member for the 2022 Zayed Prize for Human Fraternity, an international award established to mark the historic meeting of Pope Francis and the grand imam of Al-Azhar.
In October last year, he had a meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican where he received a copy of the document directly from the Holy Father.
Franciscan Brother Roberto Fernandez, a teacher at St. Francis Assisi School in Fatuberliu, Manufahi district, about 190 kilometers south of Dili, said the adoption of the document "is the right step to affirm Timor-Leste's position as a peace-loving country."
"We are ready to implement it here... The principle is that Timor-Leste needs to remain a safe home for all, especially for all religions," he said.
Of Timor-Leste's 1.3 million population, Catholics make up 97 percent while Muslims comprise under 1 percent.