On the 11th of October 2017, the head of the ICRC Cairo delegation, Ronald Ofteringer, and the legal advisor on Islamic law and jurisprudence Dr. Ahmed al-Dawoody met with Dr. Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar.
The meeting aimed at discussing ways to enhance the cooperation between the ICRC and al-Azhar, Egypt’s pioneer institution of Islamic learning and teaching that provides guidance and counsel to Muslims worldwide.
During the meeting, the enormous human suffering caused by the contemporary conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen was a joint concern, as well as the humanitarian situation of people fleeing armed conflict and organized violence in Asia and Africa. ICRC has in recent years scaled up considerably its operations in the Middle East. Delegates have visited more than 45.000 detainees in Iraq alone, and ICRC has assisted millions of people with its water, food and health programs in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, in cooperation with its Red Cross and Red Crescent partners. The Grand Imam expressed his concern about the root causes of conflict that are not being tackled.
The ICRC delegates emphasized the important role that religious leaders can and do play to uphold human dignity in times of protracted conflict and increasing polarization. ICRC has in the last two decades engaged with Muslim and other religious scholars in dialogue and debate on humanitarian law, principles, and action, which has helped to reconfirm the common humanitarian values and has opened the way for concrete cooperation to better respond to the needs of victims of armed conflict.
The Grand Imam expressed the willingness of al-Azhar to extend a helping hand to all humanitarian organizations that provide assistance to people on a neutral basis without prejudice, regardless of their cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds. He also affirmed that al-Azhar’s mission and message are truly universal, based on the conviction that all human beings, of all religions, have the right to live in peace and security.