The United Arab Emirates leads the way to being the country where religious tolerance is given priority.
In June last year, during the month of Ramadan, the UAE Cabinet approved the National Tolerance Program that gives importance to acceptance and tolerance in the UAE society, StepFeed reports.
“Tolerance is a key value of our ancestors and our founding fathers,” said Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
With people immigrating to the country, the UAE is home to a myriad of cultures and nationalities. A Pew research found that 13 per cent of the population in the UAE are Christians. There are now 40 churches—from 25 in 2005, to cater to the growing number of believers.
Reverend Andrew from St. Andrew’s Church in Abu Dhabi said the UAE is exemplary in its religious tolerance, saying His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan has granted lands where Christians could build churches. The costs of water and electricity are also free.
“As a Christian, I feel privileged and appreciate the freedom I have in practicing my faith,” said the reverend.
A church is available for almost every branch of Christianity, whether Catholic, Baptist, Coptic, or Anglican. Unlike in some Arab countries, Christians in the Emirates are allowed and encouraged to celebrate Christmas and Easter.
According to Emirates News Agency, the National Tolerance Program aims “to build up tolerance, multiculturalism, culture of acceptance of others, and reject attitudes of discrimination and hatred.” It will coordinate with federal and local officials, and members of society to be able to come up with initiatives, events and develop policies promoting tolerance in the society.
Bishop Paul Hinder, vicar apostolic of the Roman Catholic Church’s Vicariate of Southern Arabia, lauds the rulers of the UAE. “The leadership is realistic enough to see that with the growing number of foreigners, they have to welcome them as Christians, and there is true religious tolerance.”