Pope Francis’ Visit to UAE Leaves Behind Imprint of Religious Freedom
Pope Francis, Head of the Catholic Church, who recently visited the UAE has left behind some strong imprints of religious freedom in the Gulf nation. Francis arrived in Abu Dhabi on Sunday last week and became the first pontiff to visit the Arabian Peninsula. Though his visit lasted only until Tuesday, it was a first step in the right direction.
Pope Francis’ visit to the UAE marked a major advancement in terms of the principle of coexistence and also religious freedom. Never in the history of Christianity and Islam has a bishop travelled to the birthplace of the Muslim faith.
The same goal was also earmarked by Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the grand imam of Egypt’s Al-Azhar Mosque, who the Pope made mention of in the joint declaration following his visit.
The U.S. was also overwhelmed with the Pope’s visit and thanked His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, and the UAE government for their invitation.
Pope during his visit highlighted the importance of building tolerance and coming together. Even earlier this year, when Pope Francis spoke of his upcoming visits to the UAE and Morocco, he said that the visits “represent two important opportunities to advance interreligious dialogue and mutual understanding between the followers of both religions in this year that marks the 800th anniversary of the historic meeting between Saint Francis of Assisi and Sultan al-Malik al-Kāmil.”
Even the US President, Donald Trump on his first presidential trip overseas in 2017, visited religious centers of each Abrahamic faith – Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Vatican City. Further in his speech in Riyadh, Trump evidently pointed out that “For many centuries the Middle East has been home to Christians, Muslims and Jews living side-by-side. We must practice tolerance and respect for each other once again – and make this region a place where every man and woman, no matter their faith or ethnicity, can enjoy a life of dignity and hope.”
In fact, UAE is already home to over 200 nationalities who are free to practice their religions, including Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. However, the nation still does not preserve the right to express, especially after what transpired in the months following Arab Springs of 2011. The movement was critical in the entire Arab region and even witnessed Tunisia and Egypt sweeping away the Islamist political powers of their region.
Therefore, the extra mile walked by the UAE in the direction of religious freedom by inviting Pope Francis for a mass in Abu Dhabi could put an end to the world’s
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