Vatican and the UAE share common goals

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed's visit to Pope Francis is an expression of tolerance and understanding

Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, and Pope Francis exchange gifts at the Vatican. Claudio Peri / Pool Photo via AP
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Since the UAE’s inception, the word “tolerance” has been used to describe the approach taken to governance and to life in general. This value, that transcends all levels of society, is what sets us apart from some of our neighbours. People from all walks of life, of different ethnic backgrounds and of different faiths, have been welcome to come here to pursue their personal goals as they help build this country. The notion of tolerance is also reflected in our foreign policy, where the hand of friendship is extended around the world and in our commercial dealings.

It is, therefore, only natural that Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, should have visited the Vatican this week to meet Pope Francis. As both a head of state and the spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, the pope is a significant figure on the world stage. The talks between the two leaders, and in side meetings Sheikh Mohammed and his party conducted with officials including the Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Pietro Parolin, covered ways of developing the already strong ties between the UAE and the Vatican, and of dealing with global challenges such as poverty, ignorance, violence and the culture of hatred.

This week’s visit follows a trip to the Vatican in May by the Minister of State for Tolerance, Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, and the Crown Prince’s adviser on religious affairs, Dr Farouk Hammada, and builds on foundations built over many years. It underscores the determination of the UAE and the Vatican to cooperate on matters of mutual concern. There is also great significance that this meeting should come at a time when Muslims have been celebrating Eid and millions have completed the Haj.

The discussions between the two leaders yesterday extended to ways of increasing tolerance, interfaith dialogue and coexistence – values cherished by Muslims and Christians alike – and means of securing peace and stability in this region and the world. There is much common ground here, as both Sheikh Mohammed and Pope Francis have shown a strong commitment to supporting peaceful and humanitarian initiatives. Sheikh Mohammed also noted, rightly, the role of religious institutions in tackling both extremism and the incitement to violence by insulting values of faith. This meeting demonstrated that the beacon of tolerance shines brightly both here in the UAE and at the Vatican.