WASHINGTON, D.C., Andy Thompson, a reverend for the St. Andrew's Anglican Church in Abu Dhabi and Jeramie Rinne, the senior pastor for the Evangelical Community Church in Abu Dhabi, said that people of all faiths in the United Arab Emirates are encouraged to worship freely.

"The UAE, a small country in the Arabian Gulf, is pioneering a different path, one based on tolerance, openness and inclusion," the members of the clergy wrote in their article published by The Daily Caller, one of America's largest and fastest-growing news publications.

They say that among people of all faiths, many have their own places of worship, supported by the government. "If other countries emulated this model, the region would be a more peaceful, prosperous place," according to them.

A UAE delegation is conveying at the State Department's first-ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, which is taking place in Washington this week. The conference brings together international leaders from governments, faith organisations and NGOs to discuss solutions for combatting religious persecution and ensuring religious freedom for all.

The UAE is home to 200 nationalities who live, work and worship peacefully alongside one another.

There are 40 churches, two Hindu temples and a Sikh temple, all on land donated freely by the country's leadership, who welcome multi-national congregations in the UAE. The region's largest Anglican Church is currently being built in Abu Dhabi and will accommodate more than 4,000 worshipers once complete. "This new large facility will be not only be a centre of worship, but also a gathering place for communities who are making a home away from home. This generous provision of land for non- Muslim residents is consistent with the hospitality that is a feature of Emirati culture and tradition," they wrote in the article.

In 2017, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, renamed a mosque in Abu Dhabi to "Mary, Mother of Jesus" to build stronger understanding between Christians and Muslims. "This extraordinary gesture reflects the UAE's commitment to promoting tolerance and inclusion," they said.

Reverend Andy Thompson and Pastor Jeramie Rinne say that Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance, implements programmes that foster respect, peaceful coexistence and mutual understanding among people in the UAE.

The UAE has launched a National Tolerance Programme and created the National Institute for Tolerance, a research centre that highlights best practices in tolerance. In addition, the UAE is home to the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, an initiative that promotes religious coexistence. In 2017, the Forum hosted the first American Caravan for Peace to increase dialogue on moderation and tolerance. The Caravan consisted of more than 30 prominent Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders from the US.

The UAE government worked with the US Embassy in the UAE to host the Reginald Golden Singers, a musical group affiliated with the Howard University Gospel Choir. The group sang Christian hymns in front of diverse audiences.

"In addition to creating an inclusive environment, the UAE is also dedicated to promoting moderate Islam and countering extremist interpretations of the faith," read the article.

They have also mentioned the UAE General Authority for Islamic Affairs and Endowments, saying that it works to ensure that Imams deliver Friday sermons that promote tolerance and inclusion.

They also referred the Emirates Fatwa Council, which is country's official reference for religious rulings. The council has two female members and aimed to promote moderate interpretations of Islam among people in the UAE and throughout the Muslim world.

The authors say that UAE is also taking strong steps to counteract radicalisation. And it is a strong partner of the US in doing so. They mentioned UAE collaboration with the State Department to set up the Sawab Centre, a bilateral initiative between the UAE and US to counter extremist propaganda and terrorist messaging in the online space.

They also mentioned Hedayah Centre, a global think tank that provides communities and governments around the world with tools to increase their capabilities to counter extremism and recruitment efforts by terrorist organisations.

They concluded the article by saying, "Through this broad and varied approach, the UAE is encouraging tolerance and inclusion while pushing back against extremist narratives that seek to undermine its positive vision for the future. It is a model for the region that others should follow."

Source: Emirates News Agency