The leader of the first ever mission of Christian evangelicals to the UAE has described the Emirates as a “fantastic friend” to the West.
Joel Rosenberg, an American author and high-profile commentator on the Middle East, met with Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, on Monday.
Mr Rosenberg said a productive discussion on issues such as religious tolerance and the Arab-Israeli conflict had initially been due to take 30 minutes but actually lasted two hours.
The meeting was part of a four-day programme in which the 12 evangelicals met with UAE political leaders and influential Christians and Muslims in the country.
Mr Rosenberg, who writes novels, said he had presented the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi with a copy of his new book, in which Iran acquires nuclear weapons and the US, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Israeli intelligence services unite against the threat.
He said he also thanked Sheikh Mohamed for allowing Christians to practice their faith freely in the UAE.
“I think [the meeting took two hours] because we enjoyed the conversation we were having with each other,” he said.
“I think most Muslims and Christians don’t realise how much in common we have with each other in terms of our values, priorities and strategic objectives.
“I brought Christian leaders with me - who have enormous influence back in America - who go and report back to their world.
“We are coming away more convinced than ever that the UAE is a fantastic friend and ally to the United States – more Americans definitely need to know that.”
Mr Rosenberg said he had told Sheikh Mohamed that he was surprised to have been invited to the UAE, not least because he is a holder of an Israeli passport.
But he said he believed there was currently “a moment” in the Arab-Israeli conflict that could see relations improve.
Wam, the UAE’s state news agency, said Sheikh Mohammed discussed promoting tolerance, inclusion, respect and the peaceful co-existence between cultural and religious sects during the meeting.
He emphasised “the importance of inculcating the values of cultural and religious pluralism and forgiveness between followers of different religions as an essential tool to uproot the scourge of terrorism, extremism, fanaticism, and hatred,” according to Wam.
Also attending the meeting were Khaldoun Al Mubarak, Chairman of the Executive Affairs Authority, Dr Ali Al Nuaimi, Chairman of Education and Knowledge Department, and Mohamed Al Mazrouei, the Undersecretary of the Crown Prince Court of Abu Dhabi.