Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed Al-Tayeb departed from London Friday night after two days of meetings with figures from the United Kingdom’s political, religious and monarchical establishment.
On the first day of the visit Al-Tayeb was received by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the leading religious figure of the Anglican Protestant denomination, at his Lambeth Palace.
“The Grand Imam and the Archbishop of Canterbury both expressed their determination to build bridges of peace amongst human communities… Demonstrating that their faiths teach the importance of brotherhood and the importance of love, mercy, justice and peace amongst all peoples in order to deepen mutual understanding… [and] a mutual endeavour to counter the narrative of extremism and terrorism,” a joint statement issued by Lambeth Palace read.
Welby and Al-Tayeb spoke of “a shared commitment to promote social justice and development in order to eliminate poverty, ignorance and disease. Work towards promoting mutual values to address the challenges of materialism and the exploitation of interests to the detriment of their peoples.”
During the meeting, the religious leaders agreed on establishing an annual fixture that will alternate between London and Cairo, with a delegation from the Anglican communion due to visit Egypt in December of this year.
According to Welby’s office, the relationship between the offices of the Archbishop and Grand Imam was formalised in 2002 after the events of 9/11, then-Archbishop Carey and Gran Imam Sayed Tantawy sought to establish a regular relationship for the purpose of learning and dialogue between the Muslim and Christian faiths.
Also on Wednesday, Al-Tayed addressed the House of Lords, telling the Parliament’s upper house that “It is unfair and unacceptable to judge religions by the acts of some extremists who belong to this religion.” Al-Tayeb continued that to claim that Muslims and Christians have been living in Egypt with each other for 14 centuries in peace. “All Egyptians are equal in duties and rights,” he said.
During his trip, Al-Tayeb also met Crown Prince of the United Kingdom Prince Charles, and discussed ways to educate younger generations using modern technology and encourage inter-faith tolerance, according to Egyptian state news agency MENA.
Prince Charles praised the role of Al-Azhar in fighting the threat of religious extremism and promoting the “real image of Islam” as a religion of tolerance and peace. The heir to the British throne also praised the Grand Imam’s role as an influential international religious leader supporting moderation, MENA reported.
In March, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi called for a “revolution in religious views” during a conference at Al-Azhar in Cairo. He warned that the world has become frightened of Islam because of the use of the religion by extremists and terrorists for reasons of politics. The presidency has continuously proposed that Al-Azhar, the foremost Sunni authority in Islam, is the institution to lead this movement.