Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News

When 2019 dawns in two weeks’ time, the leadership, government and people of this nation will be embarking on a year-long journey to celebrate a Year of Tolerance, harnessing and focusing various legislative and policy-oriented goals and promoting the values of harmony, peace and coexistence both here at home, across the region, and around the world. Indeed, marking 2019 as the Year of Tolerance is a logical progression from our celebrations in marking 2018 as the Year of Zayed, our founding leader who instilled the virtues of harmony, understanding, peace and tolerance in his life and work.

We live in a time where it is all too easy to hurt through our words, our postings on social media, and our attitudes in dealing with others, in our deeds, our interactions, our interventions. Elsewhere, we are witnessing how intolerance leads to impatience, rhetoric to racism, thoughtlessness to toughness, unbridled exuberance to unbowed extremism.

We live in a land that from its very founding has cherished the virtues of tolerance, of equality, of treating each and every human being with dignity and compassion, valuing each as equal members of our great nation. Those are values that were lived and fulfilled by Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and those are the values we will take forward in 2019 and the Year of Tolerance. The Year of Tolerance was proclaimed by President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Saturday, and it is a declaration that has been endorsed by our leadership and government.

Indeed, in making the declaration, Shaikh Khalifa said the move would highlight the UAE as a global capital for tolerance, adopting policies to instill the values of peaceful coexistence at home and abroad. Throughout the coming year, the virtues of tolerance will focus on five main pillars, each building on firm foundations to celebrate values that bring us together and promote harmony and understanding.

To plant the seeds of tolerance, our children will be taught the values of understanding, coexistence and harmony; the UAE’s reputation as a global capital of tolerance will be enhanced through a series of initiatives and programmes highlighting dialogue between peoples and cultures; multiple cultural programmes and contributions will highlight and build our tolerant communities; legislative and policy-oriented objectives will highlight cultural and religious tolerance; and targeted media and other projects will highlight tolerance and coexistence.

As Shaikh Khalifa noted, the initiative is a national effort to build a cohesive society embracing our cultures and differences. “The UAE and tolerance go hand in hand,” Shaikh Khalifa said. How very true indeed.