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Pope’s UAE Visit: A Milestone

Dr. Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan

United Arab Emirates is the pioneer of tolerance and interfaith harmony. It is the home of more than 200 nationalities. It is also inspirational homeland of global humanitarian assistance.

His holiness Pope Francis will arrive in Abu Dhabi next week. It will be the first ever Papal visit to the Arabian Gulf. H.E. Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber the Minister of State of the United Arab Emirates terms it as a “milestone” which confirms UAE’s longstanding record of acceptance, coexistence and inclusion.

UAE stands for pure humanity, personal dignity, peaceful co-existence and above all sharing and caring which have been institutionalized in the basic core of the UAE since its inception. UAE has been striving hard to protect the rights and liberties of all creeds, sects and beliefs. Now it has become the most idealist country for the protection of human rights, human safety, human prosperity and above all human’s friendly laws and policies.

UAE’s has a dynamic constitution which guarantees freedom of spiritual expression and explicitly prohibits any form of discrimination based on religion or race. It has one of the most effective anti-discriminatory laws in the region and the world. It secures multiculturalism and human diversity which is indeed future of global survival on this planet. It has holistic approach curbing elements of intolerance, hatred, prejudice and bigotry from the society. So, Pope Francis’s visit to UAE will further enhance its pursuits towards achieving, maintaining and sustaining spirits of humanity, interfaith harmony, love, affection and care for people.

The Minister of State of the United Arab Emirates says that Pope Francis will be cherished to visit UAE where over one million Christians practice their religion without hindrance alongside a majority Muslim population. It is indeed the “real face” of UAE where different cultures, communities, groups, faiths, sects, and beliefs live peacefully.

Throughout the UAE, over forty churches welcome believers for prayers next door to Mosques, as well as Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist Temples. The Minister of State of the United Arab Emirates projects that the UAE’s acceptance of all religions is an expression of his leadership’s commitment to an open society, one that welcomes people representing over 200 nationalities and ethnicities to work, live and thrive within his borders. Generosity, mercy, forgiveness and turning “tears into smiles” have been one the key national policies of the UAE since its inception.

It is of course a key characteristic of UAE’s culture and a fundamental pillar of the vision of its founding father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan. Founding father of the UAE was a visionary and his holistic vision about humanity and humans subsequently, proved beneficial for not his country but also for the wider region. His policies remained successful in building bridges and making cultural connections with the international community. His diversified but integrated policies create partnerships promoting prosperity around the world, based on mutual respect. And it is mirrored by a domestic policy that treats differing cultures equally.

In this spirit, when the remains of a seventh century Christian monastery were discovered on Sir Bani Yas Island in 1992, Sheikh Zayed insisted that it be preserved both as a relic of shared spiritual history and a present day, potent symbol of cross-cultural harmony.

The UAE first established diplomatic relations with the Vatican in 2007, and, since then, relations with the Catholic Church has only strengthened. In 2016 HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces visited Vatican. In 2018 HH Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, hand delivered the invitation for Pope Francis to make his historic visit to the UAE.

During his visit, which will include a public mass, the Pope will meet with Sheikh Ahmad Al Tayyeb, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, and the chairman of the Council of Muslim Elders. Bringing together the spiritual leaders of the Sunni and Catholic faiths, this meeting will demonstrate a shared commitment to the principles of mutual respect, and peaceful coexistence.

UAE has already declared 2019 the “year of tolerance” and the Papal visit to UAE will further signify the strategic importance of tolerance. The upcoming visit reinforces the UAE’s rich philosophies and policies of tolerance which is not a passive state, but requires constant, consistent action. It drives UAE’s focus on a fairer society, where gender balance within leading institutions is being realized by being prioritized.

The Minister of State of the United Arab Emirates said statement is published in the “Vatican News” where he values next week’s landmark events. According to him by hosting Pope Francis, UAE is going to send a message to all those living among it, regardless of creed or culture, that they should not merely feel accepted, but are welcomed as active participants and celebrated for the positive contribution they make to the UAE.

UAE is an ideal country of human diversity and personal dignity and its real strength is its communal diversity.

H.E. Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber Minister of State of the United Arab Emirates concluded that in embracing this diversity, the UAE will continue to prosper, extend a positive influence throughout the wider region and encourage peaceful co-existence.

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