Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan called for cooperation in order to combat religious intolerance that threatens “the security and stability of the world” following a meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Thursday, according to the UAE’s official media.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed expressed his country’s keenness “to strengthen ties with the Vatican City State and consult them due to the belief that the world, now more than ever, needs to build bridges of collaboration and dialogue between different cultures and religions, standing in solidarity against those who promote religious strife, sectarianism, racism and intolerance, thereby threatening the security and stability of the world,” state news agency WAM reported.
The visit to the Vatican is the first by a high-ranking UAE official since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 2007. The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and the Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces praised the dialogue between Al-Azhar and the Vatican and said it is “an important step that deserves to be supported and built upon because it reinforces a universal culture of tolerance and co-existence, and confirms that the world stands united against terrorism and extremism”.
Pope Francis met the current Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed Muhammad Ahmed El-Tayeb in May at the Vatican in a historic meeting during which an agreement was made about holding a global peace conference.
The Emirati news agency reported that the Pope expressed confidence that the meeting with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed will strengthen “joint steps for the benefit of humanity and uphold the values and principles of interfaith coexistence, tolerance and peace”. Sheikh Mohammed presented Pope Francis with a photo book of the archaeological findings on Sir Bani Yas Island, including the landmark historic church and monastery dating back to the 7th and 8th century AD, demonstrating the clear spirit of religious tolerance and coexistence that prevailed in the region historically.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed further met the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and the two discussed the “strengthening of peace between different peoples, humanitarian issues and the phenomenon of violence and terrorism that is targeting the innocent and unsuspecting”. They also discussed the role of the international community in combatting terrorism and eradicating its sources.
The UAE has been part of the international coalition led by Washington against the extremist organisation ISIS since 2014. Its laws strictly prohibit any contempt of religions or inciting extremism.