Religious leaders came together in Dubai on Thursday to hail the contribution of Bishop Paul Hinder and welcome his successor as the head of the Catholic faith in the region.
Diplomats and government officials were also in attendance to greet Bishop Paulo Martinelli, who has taken over as the Vatican’s senior representative in the UAE and GCC.
About 100 people gathered at the Sikh gurdwara — or temple — in Dubai to celebrate Bishop Hinder, who announced his retirement earlier this year as the Apostolic Vicar for Southern Arabia after 18 years of championing closer ties between religions.
Bishop Hinder said meeting people of different beliefs over the past two decades taught him acceptance and enriched his life.
“Having been part of the interfaith dialogue has helped me deepen my own faith and especially made me discover that we are one human family with different religious horizons and roots,” he told The National.
“It has helped me to accept others in their brother or sisterhood because we accept each other as children of the same God who has made us.
“I hope this experience will not only mark the rest of my life but also help others to go through similar experiences in future.”
The gathering was organised by Surender Kandhari, chairman and founder of Guru Nanak Darbar Sikh temple in Dubai’s Jebel Ali neighbourhood.
“We want to continue to promote interfaith closeness and humanity — this is what Bishop Hinder did in this part of the world,” Mr Kandhari said.
“He would come to any function that we held and it’s important for us to honour him and welcome the new bishop.
“In the Sikh religion, we respect the otherness of others and believe we are children of one God, so we have to support each other.
“This is an opportunity for us to show respect for every religion and give a commitment to society that we are all one.”
For Bishop Martinelli, it was his first visit to the Sikh temple.
The Vatican’s highest-ranking representative in the Gulf recalled the signing of the Human Fraternity and Brotherhood Document by Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmed Al Tayeb, Grand Iman of Al Azhar, three years ago.
“This makes us responsible to make this country a tolerance capital or human fraternity capital of the world,” he said.
“Religious leaders are partners in building a better human family. I stand with people of all faiths and religions in this country as a friend and a brother.
“All religions should work together for the common good and for the promotion of goodwill.
“Different religions can greatly contribute to societies throughout the world by promoting peace, love and justice.”