UAE ‘an exemplary model of multi-religion cooperation’

With residents from more than 200 countries living side by side, practising their religions with ease, it is clear that the country’s main religion is one of tolerance and togetherness, they said.

Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of Youth, Culture and Community Development, with Cardinal Pietro Parolin at the inauguration of St. Paul’s Church in Abu Dhabi. Religious leaders have praised the UAE as an exemplary model of multi-faith cooperation. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National
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ABU DHABI // The world needs look no further than the UAE to see that Islam is a religion of peace, religious leaders meeting in Abu Dhabi said on Thursday.

With residents from more than 200 countries living side-by-side, practising their religions with ease, it is clear that the country’s main religion is one of tolerance and togetherness, they said.

Rev Heejin Kang of Abu Dhabi’s Korean Methodist Church, said: “I am a Pastor and always I tell the Korean people that they are living here very peacefully in the UAE, and they also feel proud of the secured life in the Emirates.”

Any misconceptions Rev Kang had about practising his religion freely in the UAE were quickly swept aside upon his arrival, he said on the sidelines of a lunch hosted by Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of Culture, Youth, and Community Development.

“Before coming to the UAE I was worried about my religious life here and thought that it’s going to be limited. But in the UAE there is no limitation of practising the religion,” Rev Kang said.

“Many Koreans who come to the UAE are shocked knowing the reality that they can worship freely,” Rev Kang said, adding that the 14,000 Koreans living in the country had been given an opportunity to understand Islam and other religions practised here.

Although recent attacks carried out across the world have had a negative impact on Muslims, the world must stand up to those who try to tear the religion apart, he said.

“In Korea, after the incidents in Paris, they were very sensitive about Muslims and Islam. Now, I am going to Korea to tell them that terrorism is not Islam.

“I will explain to them. I will tell them this is the real Muslim country. Muslims are our friends. We live happily together.”

If people read the Quran, said Sheikh Nahyan, they would see that the religion aimed to unite people. “In our Quran it says, ‘if you save one life it’s like saving the entire humanity; and if you kill one person you kill the whole of humanity’.

“We all are created in this world to do good to each other, regardless of our belief and faith. Because, at the end of the day, we are human beings.”

And in a world that is dealing with conflict, people should be lucky living in the UAE, said Surender Singh Kandhari chairman of Guru Nanak Darbar, in Dubai.

Mr Kandhari highlighted the Guru Nanak Darbar, the UAE’s first official gurdwara, which opened three years ago for Dubai’s 50,000-strong Sikh community.

The 70 religious leaders attending the lunch all denounced ISIL.

“These people [ISIL] are not promoting Islam and these people are promoting themselves,” said Joseph Faragalla, Pastor at the Arabic Evangelical Church in Abu Dhabi.

“It’s all about the money, personal gains. They are destroying the world that God gave us to maintain.

“If you believe in your God, that’s good enough. Respect the other person’s belief.”

Terrorism, Mr Kandhari added, has no place in religion.

“Terrorism has no religion and terrorists are terrorists. This is truly unfair to term any religion as terrorist.

“Whether you are a Muslim, Hindu or Christian, try to be a good human being,” said Mr Kandhari, quoting Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism.

The thoughts were echoed by others at the gathering, including Father Bishoy Salib, of Abu Dhabi’s Coptic Orthodox Church.

“Muslims are peaceful because Islam is a peaceful region which never calls for any violence. Any bad attitude is not part of it. The UAE is an exemplary worldwide model of multi-religion gathering and cooperation. This is the peaceful environment where all regions can grow and meet each other.”