Abu Dhabi: Honoured with a UAE Pioneers Award, Anglican clergyman Canon Reverend Andrew Thomson sounded humbled and joyous. Thomson is among two Christian expatriates in the UAE honoured on Tuesday as “UAE Pioneers”.
The prestigious award, conferred by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum on Tuesday, honours pioneers in various fields.
“This is a strong signal to the Christian community that we are friends, and that we are included in this amazing Muslim country,” the senior pastor at Abu Dhabi’s St Andrew’s Church, told Gulf News.
“I feel very humbled and honoured to be receiving this in the UAE’s Year of Tolerance, and it just inspires me to continue striving further,” he added.
The senior clergyman has been living in the UAE on and off for the past three decades, and has worked tirelessly to spread the UAE’s message of tolerance. His book, Christianity in the UAE: Culture and Heritage, has recently been translated into Arabic, and will soon also be available in Spanish.
It is this message of peace and coexistence that the Pioneers Award recognised.
Rev Thompson, who lives with a hearing impairment, stressed that the UAE’s model of tolerance is one that extends beyond classes and religions.
“The model shows that no one is outside the UAE’s net of inclusion, regardless of their ethnicity, faith, or even ability,” he said.
The church that Rev Thompson heads receives about 15,000 worshippers from more than 70 congregations every week. It was first built in 1984 on land granted by the Al Nahyan ruling family.
As reported by Gulf News, the pastor believes that it is easier to be a Christian in the UAE than it is to be one in the United Kingdom, the country from which he hails. Christians make up about a tenth of all UAE residents, and Rev Thompson’s three children also grew up here.
Earlier this year, on the occasion of Pope Francis’ visit to the UAE in February, Rev Thompson, said the UAE’s call to tolerance is a “a bracing push-back against global trends of intolerance”.
“I believe that we need to learn the UAE’s model of tolerance, teach it and most importantly, live it,” he said.