UAE embassy hosts interfaith iftar in Washington

Abrahamic Family House director highlights country's commitment to inclusion and coexistence

UAE ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba said the diversity of guests at the Washington iftar was 'a microcosm of the UAE'. Ahmed Issawy / The National
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The UAE embassy in Washington welcomed almost 100 guests to its 10th annual interfaith iftar, where officials, religious leaders and civil society figures celebrated the Emirates' long history of tolerance and diversity.

Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba greeted guests on Thursday evening and spoke about the UAE's many efforts to welcome all religions and promote religious harmony.

These include the construction of a Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi, the opening of the Manara Centre to combat extremism and the launch of the Abrahamic Family House.

“We've been trying to send this message for a very long time,” Mr Otaiba told The National at the event.

“You can see how diverse the room is: Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Jews, Christians, and people from all over. … It's kind of a microcosm of the UAE, which is exactly what we're striving for.”

UAE embassy hosts interfaith iftar in Washington

UAE embassy hosts interfaith iftar in Washington

Before the call to prayer marking the end of the daily Ramadan fast, Abdulla Al Shehhi, director of the Abrahamic Family House in Abu Dhabi, reflected on the launch of the centre at Abu Dhabi's Saadiyat Island last month.

He said that the space — which houses a mosque, a church and a synagogue — invites contemplation and communication between people of diverse faiths.

It is “a place for discovery and dialogue for people of all faiths and none”, Mr Al Shehhi said.

Rabbi Levi Shemtov, executive vice president of Jewish outreach organisation American Friends of Lubavitch, said the UAE's efforts had resonated across the world and credited the Abraham Accords for opening up new avenues of dialogue.

This “was the dream of many people before and often thought impossible, and now has become almost standard, with others following suit and seeing the benefits of looking at people who are different than yourself as potential interlocutors, allies and friends”, Rabbi Shemtov told The National.

Updated: March 31, 2023, 11:13 PM