Egypt's key political and religious leaders have taken a step towards ending the political crisis and the wave of violent protests that rocked the country in recent days.
In a document signed Thursday (January 31st) under the auspices of Al-Azhar, representatives of all political parties and movements, pledged to renounce violence and start a serious national dialogue.
The document calls for "renouncing violence in all its forms, condemning it unequivocally, criminalising it nationally and banning it religiously".
It also highlights "the sanctity of human life, public and private property and the unambiguous separation between political action and acts of sabotage", condemning the incitement, condoning, promotion, defence or exploitation of violence in any way.
Political leaders also pledged to promote "a serious dialogue and a culture of agreeing to differ and respect of pluralism", according to the document.
"Resorting to violence, inciting violence, staying silent about violent acts, slandering the other side, spreading rumours or character assassinations, and defaming entities active in the public sphere are all considered moral crimes everyone must avoid", it said.
Document signatories included the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, the opposition National Salvation Front, youth groups, independents and church leaders.
All parties promised to adhere to peaceful political means, to educate their members on this principle and to reinforce and propagate a culture of peace.
"The document criminalises all forms of physical and verbal violence as well as incitement and exploitation of violence," said April 6th Youth Movement co-ordinator Ahmed Maher, who signed the agreement.
It emphasises "the sanctity of the Egyptian citizen and the obligation to respect state security institutions, which are there to protect the dignity and humanity of Egyptians", he told Al-Shorfa.
Senior Al-Azhar clerics and advisers worked alongside various political forces to create the document, Maher said, while Coptic Pope Tawadros II also supported the initiative and called for its adoption.
In an official statement, the presidency welcomed the move, calling for a national dialogue among the political powers.
Former parliamentarian Mustafa al-Najjar, who signed the document, told Al-Shorfa it gives Egyptians the genuine opportunity to renounce violence and pave the way for a national dialogue that treats the underlying causes of tension and ends bloodshed while protecting rights.
The youth of the revolution will take "every effort to join any initiatives for dialogue in an attempt to resolve the current political crisis, so long as it is based on peace and the renunciation of violence which are the goals of the January 25th Revolution", he said.
The Al-Azhar document follows clashes involving protests and security forces last week that killed at least 50 people and wounded hundreds, according to the Egyptian Ministry of Health.
The Egyptian government declared a state of emergency and imposed a curfew in three provinces in the Suez Canal area, including Port Said, where the majority of deaths occurred, Suez and Ismailia.
On Friday, demonstrations continued as thousands gathered in Tahrir Square demanding amendments to the new constitution.