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The UAE is a leading example of tolerance, with more than 200 nationalities living in UAE, this society is an undisputed example of a tolerant nation.
H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed declared 2019 as the Year of Tolerance on December 15, 2018. The announcement was made one day after the news that Pope Francis will visit Abu Dhabi in February, a sign that UAE is tolerant of all religions and cultures. The announcement was made to highlight and show UAE as an exemplary example of a tolerant nation, bridging the communication gap between different cultures and build an environment where people accept each other as they are.
The Papal Mass was the most awaited event of the Pope’s three-day visit to UAE since it is home to a nearly million Catholics. The Holy Mass was held at the Zayed Sports Stadium in Abu Dhabi and more than a hundred thousand people attended the event to catch a glimpse of the Pope. Pope Francis also visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and the Founder’s Memorial.
The Special Olympic World Games, to be held in Abu Dhabi from March 14-21 in 2019, are also expected to feature heavily in a year-long series of events promoting tolerance. It will be the first time that the games will take place in the MENA region and expected to attract more than 7,500 athletes from around the world and an estimated 500,000 spectators.
The Vice-President and the ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, announced the Ghaf tree as the theme for 2019- Year of Tolerance.
The logo of 2019- Year of Tolerance is inspired by the Ghaf tree which is UAE’s national tree. It is to be used by all entities in government and private campaigns launched in 2019. Sheikh Mohammed said in a tweet that Ghaf is the authentic national tree, the source of life and symbol of stability in the middle of the desert. He further said that under the tree’s shadow, our ancestors consulted and solved matters. Therefore, he chose Ghaf as a logo to live by the principles of tolerance, coexistence, and diversity associated with the identity and heritage of the country. Want to know more about the history and development of Dubai and UAE, why not take our Old Dubai and Souks Heritage Walking Tour?
The Ghaf tree was declared as the national tree of UAE as it is drought resistant and an evergreen native tree to the desert. Although it is very difficult to harvest, the tree is good for the soil, a resilient plant requiring less water. Only one in almost five thousand seeds planted take root- while insects get on the others.
Rows of Ghaf trees were cut till recent times for development and now it is illegal to cut a Ghaf tree in UAE. You need permissions from the government and if a Ghaf tree comes in the middle of a development, you are required to uproot and transplant it somewhere, where it will survive.
The Year of Tolerance will focus on five main pillars.
The first pillar being, deepening the values of tolerance and co-existence among cultures by teaching the youth the values of tolerance.
The second pillar aims to solidify the UAE as the global capital for tolerance through a series of initiatives, projects, and dialogues between various cultures and civilizations.
The third pillar focuses on enacting multiple cultural programmes and contributions to building tolerant communities.
As for the fourth pillar, it plans to implement and focus on legislative and policy-oriented objectives that contribute to mandating cultural and religious tolerance via dialogue
The last pillar aims to promote tolerance through targeted media initiatives and projects.
What are some other facts on UAE and tolerance?
Tolerance has been a focus in UAE even before 2019 being declared as the Year of Tolerance. Dubai Canal, the pedestrian bridge was declared at the Tolerance Bridge in 2017 by H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid on the 22nd International Day of Tolerance.
A new post of the Minister of State for Tolerance was introduced in 2016 by Prime Minister and Vice-President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai when he announced structural changes to the 12th Cabinet. The aim of this restructuring was to reinforce the UAE’s commitment to eradicating ideological, cultural and religious bigotry in the society. Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi was the first the Minister of State for Tolerance.
There were measures taken even before this Cabinet was formed like the Anti- discrimination law (2015) which aims to protect everyone in the UAE and thus bring the concept of social security to a new level. It aims to fight discrimination against individuals or groups based on religion, caste, doctrine, race, color or ethnic origin. It also bars any kind of events such as conferences and meetings within the UAE, which are organized with the sole purpose of sowing seeds of discrimination, discord or hatred against individuals or groups.
The International Institute for Tolerance as per local Law No 9 of 2017 seeks to honor the efforts of those who contribute in spreading the culture of tolerance in the societies. The institute is open to scholars and tolerance advocates who wish to work towards establishing a culture of tolerance and openness in our societies and against all forms of discrimination among people, based on religion, gender, race, color or language.
In 2015, the Abu Dhabi government approved plans to build a Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi. BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, a non-profit social and religious Hindu organization, will build and manage the temple. The temple, expected to be completed by 2020, will have seven towers representing the seven emirates in the UAE.
Through year-round legislations and policies, the UAE will instill the values of coexistence and peace in local, regional and international communities in 2019- Year of Tolerance.