Message of tolerance dominates Dubai’s World Government Summit
DUBAI - A strong message of tolerance was sent out from the World Government Summit in Dubai following the historic visit of Roman Catholic Pope Francis to Abu Dhabi.
“We have to stand by these principles and this historical declaration, which they signed, is a call for brotherhood, peace and fraternity between all believers and non-believers,” UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan said about the pope and Grand Imam of al-Azhar Ahmed al-Tayeb and the Declaration on Human Fraternity.
“As such, the Zayed International Fund for Coexistence was established to implement international projects and programmes in culture and education. Educational curriculums will enhance the values of fraternity and scholarships will be dedicated to encouraging scientific research in all the values included in this declaration.”
A programme will train teachers to be messengers of peace and fraternity. The fund will encompass programmes by global institutions contributing to peace-making to encourage a shift from violence and extremism.
“We, in the UAE, are very proud and we were thrilled to see those 180,000 people welcoming Pope Francis,” Sheikh Abdullah said February 10. “This was a message by the UAE to say that, through its government and its people, the UAE is not just responsible for providing you with a good life but we respect your religion and your belief because this is our national duty and your right.”
A recent study revealed that 47% of those interviewed in Europe said there is a conflict between Islam and the values of European societies. In Arab countries, 25% of respondents said Christianity is in conflict with the values of Islam while 72% of European respondents expressed worry about the increase in violence. In the Arab world, that figure stood at 53%.
“There is clearly a real problem,” Sheikh Abdullah said. “We cannot confirm religion is the cause of this problem. It wasn’t created to push people to violence but it was used to justify extremism and terrorism and it has been distorted throughout history. Freedom is a right for all — freedom of thought, plurality, religion, race, colour and language.”
He spoke of a gap between religion and the development of technology. “We give so much importance to religious initiatives in an era dominated by technology because religion is an essential foundation of our spirit,” Sheikh Abdullah said.
“It guides us but it has sometimes dominated logic and rationale, which is how extremists and terrorists have emerged in places around the world; so we should never forget the role of religious leaders to call for peace and brotherhood. We need a belief that comforts us, gives us peace and we would like to strike a balance between development and religion because this represents a unique model for us to be ready for the future.”
In a video message to world governments at the summit, Pope Francis said that the good, if it is not common good, is not actually good.
“Perhaps now more than ever, thinking and acting require a true dialogue with others,” he said “because without others, there is no future for me. I hope that in your activities, you start from the face of people, from an awareness of the cry of people and of the poor and from reflecting on children’s questions.”
Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak al-Nahyan, UAE minister of tolerance, spoke of the country’s will for the global community to prosper and to live in peace and harmony, notably in this Year of Tolerance in the Emirates.
“The meeting between both religious leaders allowed the world to examine the UAE’s positive advocacy for multiculturalism and in recognising of the role of religion in promoting human dignity, peace and prosperity,” said Sheikh Nahyan. “Tolerance enables open, honest and confident dialogue among people who may differ from one another and leads to a mutual understanding and respect to all.”
He said cultivating tolerance in a city of distinctly different individuals was not as straightforward. In that regard, the Ministry of Tolerance will turn to scholars and investigate the history of successful cities around the world.
“We will look at how cities and societies can be engines of tolerance and social change and what the role of religion can be in helping cities and societies foster tolerance and acceptance,” he added. “Governments can and should compel a certain degree of tolerance by imposing and enforcing laws that punish harmful acts of intolerance.”