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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 April 2019

Diversity and understanding are our greatest strengths

In the Year of Tolerance, the pluralistic teachings of Sheikh Zayed are being brought to the nation's clasroowm

Sheikh Zayed's championing of diversity is at the heart of the nation's identity. The National
Sheikh Zayed's championing of diversity is at the heart of the nation's identity. The National

Historically, the Middle East has been an arena for tolerance and co-existence between different faiths. Across the region, different religions mixed freely, united by their devotion to a power greater than themselves. Today, with conflict and sectarianism on the rise worldwide, harmonious coexistence can sometimes seem like a thing of the past. From Hungary and Egypt to India and China, suspicion and hostility between different faiths is a cause of great concern.

That is why this year the UAE is celebrating its Year of Tolerance. Building on the vision and values of Sheikh Zayed, the nation has become a model of interfaith dialogue and religious acceptance. As we enter 2019, that tradition will only strengthen. State schools will expand their curriculum to include more classes on the life and values of the Founding Father, ensuring his pluralist ideas are instilled in the hearts and minds of future generations.

This week The National was granted rare access to the Arabian peninsula’s only Buddhist temple. It is in Dubai, where it welcomes one thousand worshippers every Friday. Like other religious communities, the UAE’s half-a-million Buddhists participate in interfaith events and Ramadan iftars. But their temple in Dubai goes a step further, reassuring them that they are free to practice their religion in peace. It is a right that many are denied in this region. Meanwhile, Catholics across the UAE are looking ahead to the Pope’s visit in February – a truly landmark moment. The invitation extended to the Vatican by the UAE government puts into practice the same teachings of Sheikh Zayed that now find themselves in the nation’s classroom.

Years of conflict in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan, and growing militancy elsewhere have imperilled religious groups across the region, causing them to retreat into themselves in search of safety or to seek it elsewhere entirely. But Arab society is traditionally rich and diverse.Sheikh Zayed understood that and saw it as a source of strength. So too have those who have followed him.

Updated: January 1, 2019 06:25 PM

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