Shared Principles of Tolerance and Inclusion

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On May 13, 2020, senior UAE diplomatic and cultural officials joined with UAE and US faith leaders in a virtual gathering to reflect on the importance of faith and community as the world’s Muslims celebrated Ramadan amidst the most challenging of times. The discussion came one day in advance of the special day of prayer announced by the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity with the support of Pope Francis, Grand Imam of Al Azhar Dr. Ahmed el-Tayeb and UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

Since before its founding, the UAE has encouraged tolerance and inclusion, based on a long-held belief that diversity makes society stronger.

In the face of the ongoing Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, faith communities are balancing public health and religious practice. Although the UAE has temporarily suspended public prayer gatherings, practitioners have adopted new ways to worship, including hosting virtual iftars.

Including a church, mosque and synagogue, the Abrahamic Family House in Abu Dhabi will be a place of learning, dialogue and worship, focused on creating mutual understanding among people of all faiths and belief systems.

The vision for the interfaith center emerged following the visit of His Holiness Pope Francis to the UAE in February 2019, when the Pope joined with Dr. Ahmed el-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, to sign the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together. The Document calls for interfaith harmony and understanding.

Designed by renowned British architect Sir David Adjaye, who also designed the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, the Abrahamic Family House is under construction with an anticipated completion date in 2022.

During his visit to the UAE – the first ever visit by a sitting Pontiff to the Arabian Peninsula – Pope Francis met UAE leaders, spoke with the Muslim Council of Elders at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and celebrated a public mass in front of 180,000 people at Zayed Sports City. Learn more about the Pope’s visit.

Amid the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) global outbreak, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan spoke with Pope Francis to discuss the importance of promoting solidarity and global cooperation in confronting the virus. The two leaders also discussed the Document on Human Fraternity, highlighting the need to uphold its values of brotherhood and harmony to deal with this common global challenge.

Pope Francis’ visit reflects the UAE’s commitment to openness, inclusiveness and freedom of worship – values shared with the United States. With more than 200 nationalities living together, side by side, the UAE is one of the most diverse countries in the world. The country is home to approximately 45 Christian churches, two Hindu temples, a Sikh temple and a Buddhist monastery that welcome multi-national congregations. A growing Jewish community gathers and worships in the UAE. In 2019, the Jewish Community of the Emirates appointed its first Chief Rabbi. And in April 2020, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced plans to build a temple in the UAE, its first in the Middle East.

“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 addition, the US and UAE regularly engage in joint efforts to advance inclusion. 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. And later that year, a delegation of government and faith leaders from the UAE attended the first US State Department Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in Washington, DC. In 2019, a UAE delegation attended the annual ministerial for a second time.

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