Shared Principles of Tolerance and Inclusion

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From February 3-5, 2019, His Holiness Pope Francis made a historic visit to the UAE. It was the first time a sitting Pontiff has visited the Arabian Peninsula – the birthplace of Islam. In welcoming Pope Francis, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan underscored the UAE’s dedication to the values of fraternity, peace and coexistence. While in Abu Dhabi, Pope Francis met with His Eminence Dr. Ahmed el-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar and Chairman of the Muslim Council of Elders, and spoke with members of the Council at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. He also celebrated a public mass in front of 180,000 people at Zayed Sports City. Learn more.

Pope Francis’ visit reflects the UAE’s commitment to inclusion and freedom of worship. With more than 200 nationalities living together, side by side, the UAE is one of the most diverse countries in the world. Its success is built on openness, inclusiveness and mutual respect – values that are shared with the United States. The UAE’s leadership works toward this positive vision for society everyday through government policies, interfaith dialogue and international partnerships.

The UAE is home to approximately 40 Christian churches, two Hindu temples, a Sikh temple and a Buddhist monastery that welcome multi-national congregations. The region’s largest Anglican Church is currently being built in Abu Dhabi and will accommodate more than 4,000 worshipers once complete. During Pope Francis’ visit, the UAE announced plans to create the Abrahamic Family House in Abu Dhabi to celebrate peaceful coexistence. “If other countries emulated [the UAE] model, the region would be a more peaceful, prosperous place,” wrote Reverend Canon Andy Thompson and Pastor Jeramie Rinne, both leaders of Christian congregations in the UAE, in a commentary.

Through the Ministry of Tolerance, led by His Excellency Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the UAE implements programs that foster respect, peaceful coexistence and mutual understanding among people in the UAE. In 2018, the Ministry worked with the US Embassy in the UAE to host the Reginald Golden Singers, a musical group affiliated with the Howard University Gospel Choir. The group performed to diverse audiences throughout the UAE.

In addition, US and UAE officials regularly engage in joint efforts to promote inclusion and religious freedom. In December 2018, US Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback attended the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies in Abu Dhabi.  Earlier in 2018, a delegation of government and faith leaders from the UAE attended the US State Department Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in Washington, DC.