ABU DHABI, 16th September, 2016 (WAM)–The meeting in the Vatican between His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and Pope Francis, the leader of the world’s one billion Roman Catholics, represents a milestone in ecumenical relations and represents a watershed moment for all Muslims.

Coming days after the joyous occasion of Eid Al Adha,”this meeting highlights the bonds of fraternity and friendship that exist between Muslims and Christians, a sign that peace and tolerance, humanity and goodness are held to be true,” said an editorial.

During his visit to the Vatican, Sheikh Mohamed said that the UAE values Pope Francis’ efforts to confront violence and extremism.

“Since its foundation, the UAE, its Rulers, its Government and its people have always acted in the best interests of all on the international stage, laying the groundwork for its much-vaunted and hard-earned reputation as a nation that is a responsible member of the international community,” the local English language daily, Gulf News, commented in its editorial on Friday.

Key to that is a belief in tolerance, as evidenced by the sheer number of expatriate workers who toil each day in the UAE to build this nation: People from around the world and people of different faiths.

That point was reiterated by Sheikh Mohamed yesterday: “The UAE serves as a role model for coexistence among different cultures that are represented by the millions who live in the UAE.”

Sadly, as we are all reminded on an all-too-frequent basis, there are those who act in hatred to create terror and division, sowing discontent and disharmony through their narrow political and religious views.

The paper underlined that the UAE has never shirked its responsibility in fighting the evil forces of terror. That is a fight that is waged on many fronts not just through the weapons of war. The leadership of the UAE has shown that fighting terror also means eradicating the social forces that allow for extremism to thrive.

The UAE has built classrooms, brought education, endorsed learning for all and has spread the joy of knowledge through reading. It has created programmes that eradicate poverty, allow families to provide and be proud of, regardless of culture, belief or community.

The harvest of progress is brought to fruition through cooperation and coexistence, tolerance and support all pursued in harmony with partners on the international stage.

The UAE is a young nation, but it is a nation that has matured while based on tolerance, cherished peaceful co-existence and has helped others nurture these fundamental values.

Sheikh Mohamed’s visit to the Vatican endorses a key tenet in the fabric of the UAE that its international relations have always been driven by the mantra of helping others and spreading a culture of peace and dialogue.

Through its generous support of foreign aid programmes, its fiscal support for the desolate and helpless in conflict zones or its material support for those who are victims of the sudden violence of nature, the UAE has always been there to help.

“The message of Islam is also one of helping others and spreading peace. Around the world, there are millions of Muslims who act each day to give, support, hold out a hand, nurture, cherish and spread the true peace of Islam,” it added.

Watching headlines and news can paint a picture that there is disharmony between people, but the reality is far different. Muslims and Christians alike have far more in common.

Harmony and peace thrive and there is much goodness. It is the evil and narrow-minded who are blinded by differences.

The paper noted that If there is a lesson to be learnt from history, it is that together, living in harmony, cooperating and working hand in hand, people of Muslim and Christians faiths make this world a better place for all of us.

That is the only way now to truly overcome the dark forces of terrorism and extremism that threaten both communities.

The meeting between Sheikh Mohamed and Pope Francis highlights that all our leaders, public figures and those who head truly religious congregations, communities and churches have a key role to spread the light of peace and the message of tolerance.

“Pope Francis has been clear in his words about the dangers of associating extremism with religion and these words are fully endorsed and supported by the UAE,” it added.

He has also urged all to shun fanaticism, narrow-mindedness, racism and shallow values, disavowing terrorism in all its forms and condemning those who spread hate in the name of faith.

They are words and sentiments that are fully and equally supported by the UAE.

Sheikh Mohamed’s actions in government and his words and deeds in everyday life, have been a driving force in spreading education, fighting extremism, eliminating terrorism, combating prejudices and resolving conflicts.

“These are the necessary actions of a leader determined to build harmony, spread prosperity and bring peace. And his historic meeting with Pope Francis underlines that dedication to harmony and tolerance,” the paper concluded.