Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak presided over the graduation of 45 participants in the UAE programme
Champions of Tolerance set to spread Zayed's legacy of acceptance
The word champion is typically used for athletes or movie heroes, but have you ever heard of Champions of Tolerance?
In the UAE you will.
Forty-five people graduated on Tuesday as Champions of Tolerance in a ceremony attended by the Minister of Tolerance, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak.
“These champions are for all of the UAE, we trained them and created this programme to spread the UAE methodology of tolerance, which was established by our Founding Father Sheikh Zayed,” Sheikh Nahyan told The National.
During the National Festival of Tolerance last week, participants from different fields and ages started their first step to be qualified as champions.
The 45 participants engaged in a three days of workshops to redefine tolerance through eight skills: intolerance; perspective taking; compassion; dialogue; conflict resolution; resilience; and teamwork. These were fused with sessions on tolerance in Islamic and Arabian history; and Sheikh Zayed and Sheika Fatima bint Mubarak’s legacies as leaders of tolerance.
“Tolerance is co-existing, this is what I knew before, that we need to tolerate people’s thinking, ethnicities, religions and so on. After the programme, it’s much much more than that, it’s actually a way of life,” said Malak Trabelsi, 40, a Tunisian legal adviser.
“My aim now is to take the values and all that we've learnt and to export it from the UAE to the rest of the world,” Ms Trabelsi said.
Geordon Rendle, a global youth advocate, and a facilitator for the programme, said it aimed to change the way participants think.
“We knew if we didn’t go deep all we’d get is something superficial or shallow. We didn’t want to do that, we didn’t want political correctness, we didn’t want a façade of tolerance, we wanted to really, truly be tolerant people,” he said.
The Champion of Tolerance programme seeks to “be an important community tool that contributes to the prosperity of the society and the world and in supporting the abilities of all to confront the dangers of terrorism and extremism” Sheikh Nahyan said.
“The programme will also contribute to a good understanding of the UAE’s ‘soft power’ through possible voluntary projects by ‘champions of tolerance’ outside the UAE,” he said.
Yasser Al Gergawi, executive director of the National Festival of Tolerance, said the second stage is the champions starting their own projects, combining what they’ve learnt with what they hope to change in the society. These initiatives are called ‘passion projects’.
“Passion is, in fact, another way of translating that when you wake up in the morning you say I was born for this ... for this particular project, thus the naming,” Mr Rendle said.
“We gave everybody an opportunity to think about ways that they can make a difference,” he said.
“Everything touches base with tolerance at some level and then we did a little bit of mentoring, a little bit of consulting, for how to jump-start their projects.”
Sheikh Nahyan assured the champions at their graduation that “the ministry will support you with all possible ways to achieve your ideas and initiatives for tolerance”.
“My passion project is the ship of tolerance. I want to send a ship that is made in the UAE to go all around the world spreading peace, forgiveness and love,” said Mohamed Al Otaiba, 21, a student from Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi.
“Promoting tolerance through good deeds among kindergarten children” is another passion project idea proposed by Maitha Murshed, 24, an Emirati working at du. “If you teach a person tolerance values from his/her early stages they will always have it within them,” she said. “I can’t wait to start getting in touch with the Ministry of Education to start to help in spreading the values of tolerance among children.”
Ahmed Al Rashid, 28, a Sudanese teaching assistant said: “To be honest I was first interested in the programme because it’s always cool to be a champion!” But now, as a graduate, he reflects on his journey more.
“I explored new aspects of tolerance and I’m now more determined to be a better citizen in the society.”
The journey for the newly crowned champions dos not end with their projects only, because there will be a forum as the third stage of the programme.
The Leaders of Tolerance Forum will take place at the end of the first year of the programme, Mr Al Gergawi said. But no more than 10 of the 45 champions will be members of this forum and this selection will be based on the most successful initiatives, activities and events they hold during the year.