WASHINGTON, USA – The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Embassy in Washington, DC celebrated the UAE’s 48th National Day at the United States Institute of Peace – called A Celebration of Inclusion and Unity, concluded – the “Year of Tolerance” in the UAE by highlighting several milestones from the past year that underscored the UAE’s dedication to building a more inclusive and peaceful future for the Middle East region.
In delivering his keynote address to over 400 prominent senior US government and military officials, members of the diplomatic corps, business and educational leaders, and other stakeholders, UAE Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba remarked on the historical precedent for the UAE’s Year of Tolerance, citing His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s commitment to peace, coexistence, humanity, and respect for all people.
“To Emiratis, religious tolerance and inclusion is not a new, recently accepted concept. It is a way of life we have known and on which we were raised since before the country’s inception,” ambassador Al Otaiba said. “Inclusion and acceptance are one of our core values – ingrained in the DNA of Emirati culture and shared with the United States. It is a value that our founder, Sheikh Zayed believed in for the unity of our nation.”
In his remarks, the ambassador described the legacy of His Holiness Pope Francis’ visit to Abu Dhabi in February, the first visit by a sitting pontiff to the Arabian Peninsula. During his historic visit, Pope Francis celebrated mass with a multinational gathering of 180,000 people, participated in an interfaith forum with the Muslim Council of Elders, and signed the Document on Human Fraternity with Ahmed el-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Cairo’s Al-Azhar Mosque.
“It was a truly inspiring sight to see so many members from the global Catholic community come together to hear the pontiff’s words in Abu Dhabi,” the ambassador said.
American faith leaders attended the UAE Embassy’s National Day event and were recognized by ambassador Al Otaiba and other distinguished guests for their efforts to promote the values of moderation, tolerance, and peace. Guests also viewed an artist’s rendering of the Abrahamic Family House, an interfaith complex consisting of a mosque, church, and synagogue that is under construction in Abu Dhabi.
This unique initiative will enhance a common understanding between all faiths and nationalities, and represent the legacy of the inclusive spirit of the Pope’s visit for generations to come. Designed by Sir David Adjaye, the lead designer of Washington’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Abrahamic Family House will be located in the cultural and educational center of the UAE capital.
Ambassador Al Otaiba noted that the inclusive spirit of the Year of Tolerance also extends beyond religion. The Pope’s February visit to the UAE was followed closely by the Special Olympics World Games, held in March in Abu Dhabi. 7,500 athletes from more than 190 countries competed at the event, which was the first-ever World Games held in the Middle East.
“The UAE has unveiled policies to accelerate inclusion and raise awareness of disabilities, and will continue to be a role model for the region to follow,” ambassador Al Otaiba said on Wednesday. “Both the World Games and the Pope’s visit to Abu Dhabi this year are illustrations of the UAE’s commitment to creating a more prosperous and inclusive world for all of us.”