Pope Francis attending a farewell ceremony at Tocumen International Airport in Panama City on Sunday. Image Credit: Reuters

ABU DHABI: The UAE has joined forces with Al Azhar and the Vatican to build harmony, spread prosperity and tolerance and show a united front against all forms of intolerance, leading Muslim scholars have said.

Pope Francis’ historic visit to the UAE, the first to the Gulf region, comes at a time when constructive dialogue between people of all faiths is of paramount importance, the scholars said.

Islam’s ties with religions that preceded it are not political or social; rather, they are ties of brotherhood, for Islam is a sister to the religions of Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus.

- Dr Ahmad Al Tayeb,| Grand Imam of Al Azhar

The conference highlights that all leaders, public figures and those who head religious congregations, communities and churches have a key role to spread the light of peace and the message of tolerance.

Human advancement

The UAE’s opposition to extremist groups that exemplify intolerance spans more than two decades, The nation’s belief in a future defined by human advancement characterises its approach to development assistance around the world, but is best expressed in the society it has created within the UAE which is home to people of diverse nationalities and ethnicities.

Dr Ahmad Al Kubaisi, a leading Muslim scholar, said since its foundation, the UAE, its Rulers, its government and its people have always acted in the best interests of all on the international stage.

It [the UAE] is a young nation, but one that has matured. It is based on tolerance and cherished peaceful co-existence and has helped others nurture these fundamental values.

- Dr Ahmad Al Kubaisi, Leading Muslim scholar

“The UAE serves as a role model for co-existence among different cultures that are represented by the millions who live in the country. It is a young nation, but one that has matured. It is based on tolerance and cherished peaceful co-existence and has helped others nurture these fundamental values,” Al Kubaisi said.

Al Kubaisi said the harvest of progress is brought to fruition through co-operation and co-existence, tolerance and support — all pursued in harmony with partners on the international arena.

Driver of dialogue

Shaikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah, chairman of the UAE Fatwa Council and president of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, said the upcoming visit of Pope Francis reflects a significant aspect of the spirit of tolerance embodied by the UAE and its endeavours to establish itself as a leading nation in spreading the values of tolerance and peaceful co-existence and a driver of dialogue between religions.

The moves are a new testimony to the culture of tolerance and forgiveness embraced by the UAE, the seeds of which were sown by Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

- Shaikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah, Chairman of the UAE Fatwa Council

Bin Bayyah extended appreciation to the UAE’s wise leadership against the backdrop of declaring 2019 as the Year of Tolerance by President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and the upcoming Abu Dhabi Declaration on Human Fraternity.

“The moves are yet a new testimony to the culture of tolerance and forgiveness embraced by the UAE, the seeds of which were sown by Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan,” added Bin Bayyah.

Founder’s values

Dr Mohammad Mattar Al Kaabi, chairman of the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments, said the founding father Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan sought to establish tolerance and noble values as a guiding principle for the UAE.

The UAE President’s declaration of 2019 as the Year of Tolerance provides a valuable opportunity to promote the true essence of the approach pursued by the country...

- Dr Mohammad Al Kaabi, General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments

“The nation has established great foundations, including religious and social tolerance that was the lifestyle of its founder,” Dr Al Ka’abi said.

“The UAE President’s declaration of 2019 as the Year of Tolerance provides a valuable opportunity to promote the true essence of the approach pursued by the country to inculcate the genuine values of brotherhood, mutual respect and cooperation,” he added.

Top priority

Amnah Nuseir, professor of Islamic Philosophy at Al Azhar University and a member of the Egyptian Parliament, said, “Enhancing ties between Islam and Christianity is a top priority for Pope Francis. Since he became Pope in 2013, he has been interested in improving ties with the Islamic world. This message is emphasised by the trips he has made to several Islamic countries including Egypt,Turkey and now the UAE. In a world afflicted by militancy and bloody violence in the name of religion, the sincere efforts made by the Vatican and Al Azhar to promote inter-faith dialogue are crucial for global peace. The international community should lend unlimited backing to these efforts.”

Jaber Tayae, the head of the religion sector at Egyptian Ministry of Awqaf, said, “Tolerance and peaceful coexistence are the focus of Pope Francis’ landmark visit to the Emirates, which itself is an inspiring symbol of these values. The visit and its implications are a strong message against forces of evil and fanaticism that seek to spread hate among Muslims and Christians. All divine religions repudiate extremism and violence, and call for affinity and cooperation among all humans for their common good and prosperity of the universe.”

Human interaction

Shaikh Salah Al Jowdar, Imam at Al Khair Mosque and member of the board of King Hamad Global Centre for Peaceful Co-existence, said “The visit by Pope Francis to the UAE is a historic event that reinforces relations and dialogue between civilisations. It confirms the significance of human interaction among religions across the world.

We look forward to deeper religious co-operation to contribute to the reinforcement of security and peace across the world in order to confront extremist ideas.”