Samuel D. Brownback, US Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The UAE attracts investments and people from across the globe because of religious freedom guaranteed by the government, a top US official said here on Sunday.

“If you go other places in the Middle East, no money [foreign investment] is coming there [unlike the UAE]. If you want a dynamically growing country, you need to practice religious freedom and protect religious freedom [like the UAE does],” said Samuel D. Brownback, the US Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom.

He was addressing a media round-table on the sidelines of the First Regional Conference of the 2018 Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom: Interfaith Tolerance Education to Combat Extremism.

The conference was organised in cooperation with Shaikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, the Minister of Tolerance, as well The World Muslim Communities Council, and the US Department of State.

Brownback led the American delegation to the conference and delivered a keynote address at the opening, which focused on teaching interfaith tolerance as a means to counter violent extremism in youth.

Samuel D. Brownback talks about religious tolerance and economic growth.

At the media round-table, he shared his personal experience of attending a mass at a Catholic church in Abu Dhabi on Sunday morning.

“There was no problem at all [except heavy traffic on the roads after the mass, which is common in any major cities]. People are respectful and tolerant,” Brownback said.

Brownback praised the UAE for hosting the recent papal visit to the Arabian peninsula, “the first in the human history.”

The envoy told the reporters that economic prosperity could check religious extremism.

“Economic growth means less terrorism... you see that here [in the UAE].”

He said religious freedom is essential for the peace in the Middle East and the governments have to protect that right.

He cited a report of the Pew Research Centre, an American fact-tank based in Washington, which said almost 80 per cent of the world population are living in a religiously restricted atmosphere.

Samuel D. Brownback speaks about his personal experience of attending a mass at a Catholic Church in Abu Dhabi.

Brownback said semi-academic studies have found that religious tolerance brings multiple benefits.

“Most governments act on their own self-interest. They do what they believe is in their best interest. It is in the best interest of every nation to protect and guarantee religious freedom.”

He said it would offer more growth and more opportunities for their people while checking extremism and terrorism.

The envoy said the UAE has done a ‘fantastic job’ by incorporating religious tolerance in its educational curriculum.

Ambassador Brownback was sworn in as the US Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom on February 1, 2018.

He served as Governor of Kansas from 2011 to 2018. Previously he served as a US Senator (1996-2011) and a US Representative in the House of Representatives (1995-1996) from Kansas.

While a member of the Senate, he worked actively on the issue of religious freedom in multiple countries and was a key sponsor of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.