Egypt's Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's highest seat of learning, and its Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayyeb congratulated the African people on the occasion of the 56th anniversary of Africa Day, which coincides with Egypt's presidency of the African Union (AU) this year.
Africa Day, which comes on 25 May, commemorates the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1963, which in 2002 changed its name to the AU.
On this occasion, Al-Azhar called on the AU to activate the "Silencing the Guns" initiative that was launched by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, who is the chairman of the AU in 2019.
The initiative aims at containing conflicts and putting an end to civil wars and sectarian strife across the continent by 2020, through negotiations and peaceful means.
The "Silencing the Guns" initiative also targets the elimination of terrorism in the continent.
To these ends, Al-Azhar said it has recently carried out a mediation initiative to contain conflicts in Central African Republic.
Al-Azhar plays a leadership and development role in Africa with more than 5,000 African students from 46 African countries studying in Al-Azhar Mosque and the university's colleges.
Al-Azhar's African students, who are mostly awarded scholarships by the institute, study at different levels and in a variety of fields, such as religious sciences, Arabic language, applied and social sciences, and other sciences.
Al-Azhar's role also includes sending religious, medical and educational convoys to various African countries with the aim of meeting the basic needs of the African people.
Most of the African students are awarded scholarships to study at Al-Azhar.
In the beginning of 2019, Al-Azhar announced a plan to focus on Africa.
On the occasion of Egypt's chairmanship of the AU, the Al-Tayyeb formed a special committee to specialise in African affairs at the institute.
The formation of the committee complements the role of Egypt and Al-Azhar in supporting the peoples of the African continent at all levels.
This includes doubling the number of scholarships offered by Al-Azhar to African students, and also doubling the number of imams hosted by Al-Azhar from Africa, to train them to spread the true teachings of Islam and Al-Azhar's approach to freedom and tolerance.
Al Azhar's educational efforts in Africa are not limited to receiving foreign students to study in Cairo.
Al-Azhar says it is keen to have its curriculum and scholars reach within the heart of Africa, through 16 Azhar institutes located in Somalia, Tanzania, South Africa, Chad, Nigeria, Niger and Uganda, through cooperation protocols.