The National Tolerance Programme sees this country positioning itself as a leader in the quest for international unity, peace, and cross-cultural cohesion. This historic charter is meant to stand as an extension to the UAE’s long-standing record of encouraging peaceful coexistence and cross-cultural unity.
Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, the Minister of State for Tolerance, presented the new programme to the Cabinet to further cement UAE values on tolerance, multiculturalism and acceptance. Meant as a means to facilitate coexistence by rejecting “attitudes of discrimination and hatred”, the initiative comes in response to widespread global social discord and conflict.
In a statement, the Cabinet stated its awareness that “sectarian, ideological, cultural and religious bigotry only fuel the fires of rage”.
They condemned such behaviour and emphasised the need to “study, teach, and practise tolerance – and to instil it in our children, both through education and our own example”.
UAE leaders expressed their hope that the programme’s implementation will serve to strengthen the Government’s role as an incubator of tolerance, consolidate the role of family in nation-building, promote tolerance, combat fanaticism among youth, enrich scientific and cultural content and lastly, integrate international efforts in the promotion of such a message – and it is already beginning to take effect.
The UAE has followed this up by implementing several campaigns, highlighting various members of society as “voices of tolerance”, as well as Sheikha Lubna announcing a National Tolerance Week, which will be observed in November. Additionally, the 16th of that month is observed as the International Day for Tolerance.
Furthermore, the leadership has implemented a “Tolerance Responsibility Programme” aimed at encouraging organisations to support the policy and a UAE Tolerance Centre, which will be responsible for providing scientific-based research and cultural data regarding such issues.
The campaign will aim to promote a set of agreements related to “citizens, residents, teachers, students and employees”, which will focus on “promoting tolerance, coexistence … respect for cultural diversity, and the rejection of violence, extremism and racism”.
The invitation extended to Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, by India for this year’s Republic Day celebrations, is yet another occasion that shows how serious the UAE is in spearheading efforts to foster cohesion.
Sheikh Mohammed led a “tolerance delegation” and met with Indian officials to discuss matters ranging from extremism to the ratification of 13 agreements, including one for a “strategic partnership”.
Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah, president of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, recently attended Johns Hopkins University Center for Strategic and International Studies in the United States to participate in a discussion on religious tolerance and to promote a philosophy of peace.
Sheikh Abdullah stressed a “two-fold approach” to countering radicalism, emphasising the need for framing a “cultural and intellectual strategy” and called on various leaders of Christian communities to join in the fight against extremism.
The UAE’s dedication and commitment to this policy has garnered widespread praise, including from Bishop Paul Hinder, Vicar Apostolic for UAE, Oman and Yemen for the Catholic Church, who gave a projection of peaceful future relations after his invitation to Sir Bani Yas Island’s Christian monastery.
He said it was “a strong sign for what is again happening in recent times, thanks to the open-minded rulers of the UAE” and said that it “reminds us that Christianity was present in the region very early and coexisted with Islam for a long period”.
Dr Hessa Abdulla Al Otaiba, UAE Ambassador to Spain and non-resident Ambassador to the Vatican City, attended the most recent annual meeting of the diplomatic corps accredited by the Holy See, when Pope Francis described the UAE as a “role model” and praised the nation for its “wise leadership” for the policy pursuits.
The UAE has long held fast to fostering a spirit of coexistence, unity and peace among its people and other nations across the globe. This new charter is widely seen as a landmark policy in the efforts to promote global harmony and fight extremism and fanaticism, both of which have attempted to decay our social structures and values.
Hend Al Otaiba is the director of strategic communications for Abu Dhabi Media