Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 26 April 2019

Religious understanding is the bedrock of the UAE

Tolerance is the bridge that unites the many faiths of the country in spiritual harmony

Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak​​​​, Minister of Tolerance, visited the Cleveland Clinic on Tuesday. Khushnum Bhandari / The National
Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak​​​​, Minister of Tolerance, visited the Cleveland Clinic on Tuesday. Khushnum Bhandari / The National

Religious holidays in the UAE have a tendency to rally the nation and unite residents under one spiritual umbrella. That is particularly evident during the month of Ramadan and, increasingly, during the Christian festival of Christmas, when the beacon of spirituality and tolerance held high by the country shines brightly. The UAE has designated 2019 the Year of Tolerance, a clarion call in an increasingly divided world. With days to go before a year that will see the Pope make an historic visit, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the Minister of Tolerance, has spoken of his belief that religion is a positive force for the world.

Some around the world will need convincing. After all, we live in a time of hate and intolerance – dark colours, nailed to religion’s mast, to which the lost, the fearful and the vitriolic are persuaded to cling in despair. But these are not the true colours of faith. Religion has been manipulated and misrepresented to justify aberrations in humanity, from the suffering of innocents across the Middle East to outrages on the streets of European cities. As a consequence, minds and borders are closing everywhere, in a contraction of compassion that diminishes us all.

Sheikh Nahyan speaks of tolerance as a bridge and it is a fitting metaphor. Intolerance thrives in isolation, fear and ignorance while tolerance is the bridge that can connect us to our fellow human beings. Nowhere is this more evident than in the UAE, a multicultural beacon of peace and stability, where people of all faiths have long lived together in harmony. Christians across the UAE are preparing to celebrate Christmas, as they have done since the nation’s earliest days. In 1967, Sheikh Rashid, then the ruler of Dubai, attended the blessing at St Mary’s Roman Catholic church. St Andrew’s in Abu Dhabi was built on land gifted in 1966 by Sheikh Zayed. Tolerance was the foundation stone of the UAE. In 2019, the nation will show the world the way to cross the bridge it has built to peace and understanding.

Updated: December 20, 2018 06:33 PM

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