UAE is a trailblazer for freedom of religion in the region, says US envoy

Sam Brownback: Nearly 80 per cent of the world lives in religiously restrictive atmospheres

after a trip to Pakistan.
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The UAE is a "pathfinder nation" for religious freedom and tolerance in the region, the US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom said on Sunday.

Sam Brownback applauded the initiative taken by the UAE to promote, protect and practice religious freedom.

“The papal visit was historic, and that’s too modest of a term to call it that, [the] first papal visit ever on the Arabian Peninsula in the history of humanity,” Mr Brownback said during a media briefing in Abu Dhabi.

The Emirates was lauded by the international community for hosting a historic visit by Pope Francis earlier this month, marking the first ever visit to the Arabian peninsula by a head of the Catholic Church.

The UAE is home to nearly one million Christians, all of whom are allowed to worship in churches or church compounds as well as places with special licenses.

“All other religions operate freely here, they have to register, I participated this morning, I went to a Catholic Mass at 6:30 am, there wasn’t any over protection in the area and this is a respectful tolerant place and I want to compliment the UAE on this,” Mr Brownback said.

The ambassador said that in order to create peace in the world, nations must practice a similar model to that of the UAE.

Mr Brownback, who is a former governor of Kansas and a former US senator, said that religious freedom has been overlooked and not protected by many governments within the international community.

“If we want to see stability in the region, growth, and less terrorism we have to see respect between religious freedom that is protected by governments,” he said, again pointing to the UAE as an example for its ability to attract "people from all over the world."

But nearly 80 per cent of the world lives in a religiously restrictive atmosphere, he said.

It is in the interest of every nation to guarantee and protect religious freedom, he stressed, adding that it will mean more growth and opportunity for their citizens.

“Religions have to start being in dialogue with each other, Judaism, Islam and Christianity are going to have to talk to each other in respectful ways, to listen to each other,” he said.

During the meeting Mr Brownback recalled a statement made by the UAE government in which it stated it would allow residents to practice their faith and ensure their protection. “This is an enhancing thing for any country,” he said.

Mr Brownback hosts a series of religious freedom round tables comprised of civil society actors in the US on a weekly basis.