ATHENS, 30th October, 2017 (WAM) -- Religious tolerance and cultural co-existence continues to be a strong pillar in the UAE's values and visions, not only enabling future growth and development for the nation, but consolidating channels of communication on regional and international levels.
Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance, made these comments while reaffirming the United Arab Emirates' dedication to tolerance, peaceful coexistence, and mutual respect for all, during an international conference, 'Religious and Cultural Pluralism and Peaceful Coexistence in the Middle East', in Athens, Greece, on Monday
An initiative of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the second edition of the conference, which runs on the 30th and 31st October, is a major international event taking place at a time when developments in the Middle East remain turbulent. It aspires to move ahead in taking stock of unresolved issues and strengthening a framework for dialogue among the various religious communities in the region, thus promoting rapprochement, networking, mutual respect and, ultimately, peaceful co-existence.
Thirty-four countries from the Middle East and the Mediterranean along with a number of international organisations and high ranking delegations attended the event, where Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak gave a keynote speech, saying, "We in the United Arab Emirates are extremely proud of our Arabic-Islamic heritage. It has enabled us to engage our extremely diverse population and become, in effect, global citizens. We have welcomed people from all corners of the earth. They live and work with us safely and peacefully under our welcoming Arab tent. We have engaged them in dialogue, sought to understand our differences, and rejoiced in our shared values."
"We view all human beings as members of one global society. Our tolerance has inspired people to shun oppressive and hateful actions and has allowed us all to live in peace and prosperity," he added.
The conference looks at individual issues, such as the role of religious communities and their leaders in the reintegration and inclusion of refugees and migrants returning to their countries of origin, utilisation of new technologies for improving communication between peoples and communities in the Middle East, and development of synergies between the participants for combating extremism.
Archbishop Hieronymus of Athens, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, nearly all of the Patriarchs of the Orthodox Churches, a high-ranking delegation from the Vatican, and prominent religious leaders from the Muslim and Jewish worlds were also in attendance.
Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan's speech is reproduced below in full:
"Your Excellency, The President of Greece, Your Holiness, The Archbishop of Athens, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:
Greetings from the United Arab Emirates. It is my honour and privilege to convey to you the best wishes of the people and government of the UAE. We are deeply grateful to the people and government of the friendly nation of Greece for hosting this Second International Conference on 'Religious and Cultural Pluralism and Peaceful Coexistence in the Middle East'.
My country wishes the greatest success for this conference. It reaffirms our commitment to exchanging ideas and experiences, discussing issues of common interest and concern, and strengthening cooperation among us all.
This conference embodies the UAE’s dedication to tolerance, peaceful co-existence, and mutual respect for all, for the benefit of all.
This conference, ladies and gentlemen, should enlarge our collective capacity to deal effectively with discrimination and bias in our societies. This conference should give us new and powerful ideas for building positive and productive relations within our diverse populations. Exercising tolerance is essential for making our societies more peaceful, more progressive, and more stable. Tolerance promotes actions that lead to prosperity, progress, and peace.
We in the United Arab Emirates are extremely proud of our Arabic-Islamic heritage. It has enabled us to engage our extremely diverse population and become, in effect, global citizens.
We have welcomed people from all corners of the earth. They live and work with us safely and peacefully under our welcoming Arab tent. We have engaged them in dialogue, sought to understand our differences, and rejoiced in our shared values. We view all human beings as members of one global society. Our tolerance has inspired people to shun oppressive and hateful actions and has allowed us all to live in peace and prosperity.
I stand before you today, ladies and gentlemen, as the Minister of Tolerance in the United Arab Emirates. I stand before you as the embodiment of my country’s commitment to tolerance as an essential component of society. I stand before you as living evidence of our continuing commitment to tolerance. We know that tolerance does not flourish without hard work.
For example, my ministry and my country are focused on ensuring that the educational experience of our country’s young men and women results in their understanding the necessary value of tolerance. We are likewise concentrating on promoting tolerance in all forms of communication. We wish to build local and global partnerships based on a tolerance that realises the potential in diversity. And we undertake continued societal and legislative initiatives that fight hate, promote mutual respect, and celebrate our shared human values.
Because of our positive experience with tolerance, we in the United Arab Emirates are eager to join with other countries and organisations in support of tolerance, pluralism, peaceful and mutually beneficial co-existence. We are ready to share our experience and to gain from others a wider understanding of the universal power of tolerance. Of course, this wonderful conference gives us that opportunity.
This conference, ladies and gentlemen, reminds us of what we have long recognised in the UAE, that tolerance and peaceful coexistence needs our constant effort to support it and make it an integral part of our lives. We must accept others and welcome them as effective participants in society without discrimination. We must work ceaselessly to increase our understanding of, and respect for, those who are different from us. We must consciously reject negative stereotypes and seek dialogue to resolve misunderstandings and build trust. We must help other people understand us.
To achieve its full potential, tolerance must begin with the individual, by educating him or her, by providing him or her with the correct information about relationships between religions, cultures and peoples. We must also focus our efforts on local communities and then on whole countries, and ultimately in the entire world. In all of this, tolerance must extend to positive and honest dialogue among all of us irrespective of our religion, ethnicity, nationality, culture, economic status, or political belief. We must actively seek that dialogue and become accustomed to exchanging knowledge and listening carefully and respectfully to the views of others.
Such dialogue can enable us to accept difference and to recognise shared values. Tolerance requires the courage to confront the unknown, to cast aside suspicion and instead embrace diversity, because tolerance rewards the courageous with peace, harmony and prosperity.
My Friends, Brothers and Sisters:
The United Arab Emirates is honoured to participate in a conference dedicated to tolerance and the pluralism and peace that tolerance enables. Our country shares your concerns and has created a pluralistic global society composed of people from every nationality on the planet living peacefully together. Our progress began in 1971 with a courageous and enlightened leader.
That leader was the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahayan, the founder of our nation. We will celebrate the centennial year of his birth next year. He knew that the priority of the newly formed UAE must be education. With his wife, Her Highness, the Mother of our Nation, Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, he knew that women must play a role equal to men if we were to develop fully and fairly. He knew that we had to immerse ourselves in the wonders of science and technology and capitalise on the latest advances.
Sheikh Zayed wanted our country to become a positive force in the global economy. Our country became a global crossroads with an amazingly diverse population of almost ten million people representing some 200 different countries, the nations of the United Nations.
Sheikh Zayed knew that we must see and hear and engage people who are not part of our own culture. He knew that we must come to understand and respect the scores of different cultures, nationalities, ethnicities, religions, and beliefs that would be represented in our country. Sheikh Zayed was deeply committed to justice, to the rights of every individual and to the equal treatment of every person living in our country. Tolerance worked to everyone’s advantage. Others learned about us and we learned about others. Our awareness of and concern for the rest of the world has become more pronounced.
Friends and Colleagues:
I call on you in this conference to consider these principles and values that the late Sheikh Zayed has established for the United Arab Emirates and which made the country a leading model of peaceful coexistence and inclusion. Based on our own experience in the UAE, I call on you in this conference to enhance our collective ability to work together for tolerance and peace, to work together to eradicate misunderstandings about different religions and cultures, and to help promote the positive participation of our region in the progress of humanity.
We must always be proud, that our societies in the Middle East have always been multi-religious, multi ethnic, and multi-cultural. This historical pluralism was always a positive force in the development of a society, and a source of great and enduring civilizations throughout history.
Our work at this important conference is fuelled by the shared desire for the pluralism that results from serious dialogue. I am confident that the conference will fulfil all our expectations. It will assuredly serve the interests of our countries and help shape the future of our region. I am happy to be here and offer, once again, my thanks and gratitude to the government and people of Greece. Thank you all for your participation, and for your contributions, in this important conference.