UK ambassador praises UAE's tolerance on International Religious Freedom Day

The UAE is home to numerous cathedrals and mosques built next to each other

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, met Pope Francis during a visit to the Vatican last year. Mohamed Al Hammadi / Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi
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The UAE is home to countless people of different religions and cultures who peacefully co-exist.
That was the message Philip Parham, the British ambassador to the UAE, conveyed through a video speech for International Religious Freedom Day on Friday.

"Freedom of religion and belief is a fundamental human right and it’s a human right which the United Kingdom works hard to protect and promote through the United Nations and other international fora and working bilaterally with other governments and countries and indeed, with civil society," he said.

"The UK has doubled the fund which it has available to work with groups and projects in 20 countries in the world to promote this right of freedom of religion and belief. It’s a right which the Archbishop of Canterbury, when he came to the UAE last year for an interfaith conference, was promoting, protecting and advocating."

He said it was also a right which he saw was given priority here in the UAE. "He admired what was being done on that score here," Mr Parham said.

"An illustration here in Abu Dhabi of the freedom of religion and belief is a location where you have a Catholic cathedral, a Coptic Orthodox cathedral and a mosque very close to each other. Right next to the Catholic cathedral of Saint Joseph is this mosque which, until recently, was called the Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Mosque, named after the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. But recently, at the Crown Prince’s request, the mosque has been renamed and named after Mariam Umm Eisa, in other words the mosque of Mary, the mother of Jesus, next to the Catholic cathedral and the Coptic Orthodox cathedral and just down the road the Anglican Church of Saint Andrew's and an Evangelical Church a little bit further away."

He said it was a "great illustration" of the way in which people of different faiths and beliefs in the UAE were able to live together in harmony and with great respect. "That was illustrated again when, last year, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed visited the Pope in Rome and a little earlier, Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, who was then the Minister of Tolerance for the UAE, met the Pope and delivered to him an invitation for him to come here to the UAE as a visitor," he added. "There are many events here in the UAE to promote coexistence and respect between people of different cultures and religions.

We ourselves were involved in one such event last year when His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall visited and took part, as their first engagement when they arrived in Abu Dhabi, in an event at the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, which was looking precisely at how these different groups of different religious traditions lived together in the UAE. It’s important and inspiring that we are here and that we have a partner in the UAE to promote this very fundamental human right."


Read more:

Coptic Christians in UAE hope for peace as Pope visits Egypt

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed meets with religious leaders to discuss furthering tolerance