A historical moment for the UAE

Over the past 47 years, the UAE has managed to become one of the most diverse countries with over 200 different nationalities calling it home. The reason that the Emirates hosts so many people, from such diverse backgrounds, is thanks to its policy on religious tolerance. Last December, HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler of the UAE, announced that 2019 will officially be the Year of Tolerance.

The UAE kicked off the Year of Tolerance with a historic visit from the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, which marks the first time a pontiff visits the Gulf. The Pope arrived on Sunday, February 3, for a three-day visit, which ends today after his public Mass at Sheikh Zayed Stadium, in Abu Dhabi.


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Upon the Pope’s arrival in the capital, Abu Dhabi, he was greeted by HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. He then went on to meet Dr Ahmed Al Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar and Chairman of the Muslim Council of Elders. Prior to his arrival in the UAE, the Pope tweeted, “I am about to leave for the United Arab Emirates. I am visiting that Country as a brother, in order to write a page of dialogue together, and to travel paths of peace together. Pray for me!”


His itinerary for the three-day visit included a meeting with Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, at the Presidential Palace. He then met with Dr Ahmed Al Tayeb, at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque for an interfaith meeting. Later on, the two religious figures signed the Human Fraternity Document at the Founders Memorial, in presence of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed. The document, which the Pope and the Imam signed, “invites all persons who have faith in God and faith in human fraternity to unite and work together.”

HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid, Ruler of Dubai, took to Instagram to share photos from the document signing, which he captioned, “UAE today was proud to host the historic meeting of His Holiness Pope Francis and His Eminence Dr. Ahmad Al Tayeb. We launched the ‘Human Fraternity Award’ to create a true interfaith dialogue. The two religious symbols were honoured during the award’s first edition.”


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On Tuesday, the Pope took part in a private visit to St Joseph’s Cathedral before hosting a public outdoor mass at Zayed Sports City. He addressed the gathering crowds at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, and spoke about God’s love, saying, “A joy that no one in this world under no circumstance can take away from us. It’s a joy that gives us peace amongst pain.”

Thousands of people gathered for the monumental moment in UAE history, including UAE Minister for Culture Noura Al Kaabi and Minister for Tolerance Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak. Her Excellency shared a photo on Twitter, which he captioned, “In Zayed Sports City with His Excellency Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of Tolerance to attend the Pope Francis Historical Mass in Abu Dhabi.”

Leading up to this visit, a book by Andrew Thompson, called ‘Celebrating Tolerance: Religious Diversity in The United Arab Emirates’ was launched in the UAE, celebrating the Year of Tolerance.  The book is auspicious as it’s the first time the UAE has recognized the Jewish community in this way.

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