Abu Dhabi Marks Interfaith Effort
Interfaith leaders gathered recently at Abu Dhabi to mark one year since Pope Francis’s historic trip to the Arabian Peninsula, a visit that saw leading Muslim clerics gather alongside the Pope of the Catholic Church to promote co-existence. The United Arab Emirates has worked to promote itself over the past year as a beacon of religious tolerance, despite its hard limits on political speech. The majority of the country’s population are not Emirati Muslim citizens, but foreigners, millions of whom are other than Muslims.
Abu Dhabi hosted the meeting to showcase its continued efforts in promoting interfaith dialogue as it prepares to break ground this year on a compound that will house a mosque, church and synagogue side by side. The Abrahamic House of Fraternity project is due to be completed in 2022. In the neighbouring emirate of Dubai, an unmarked villa has already been turned into a synagogue.
The UAE and Saudi Arabia, along with other Gulf states, have been expanding their outreach to Christian groups, like evangelicals, and Jewish organisations. A US rabbi, a representative of the Catholic church and a trained sheikh from Egypt”s Al-Azharattended the briefing, where they discussed ongoing interfaith efforts. Senior Rabbi at the Washington Hebrew Congregation, Bruce Lustig, insisted his participation on this visit was “apolitical”. “We are here as a forum for peace for the whole human family,” he said. “I am delighted when there’s opportunities to bring justice and peace to so many people who have so many injustices in the world.”