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November 15, 2019

Model of tolerance

Opinion

November 15, 2019

It is a matter of great honuor and privilege to have been exclusively invited from Pakistan to attend the World Tolerance Summit under the patronage of Prime Minister of UAE Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Unesco observes November 16 every year as World Tolerance Day throughout the globe. However, last year, the UAE had announced to mark entire year of 2019 as the Year of Tolerance, as a way to pay tribute to the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founding father of the UAE and first president of the country. The great Sheikh Zayed believed in the importance of tolerance and co-existence.

The World Tolerance Summit, held at Dubai, is part of the different initiatives being taken by the UAE government in order to promote tolerance in the country. I was invited as the only speaker from Pakistan to express my views on the role of the media.

On the occasion, we exchanged our views on various methodologies to promote the noble cause of tolerance, peace and harmony in society. I emphasized that every religion of the world asks its followers to ensure respect for other religions. In today’s digital era, the media can play a positive role to bring people closer and also to expose the few extremist elements present in every society. I had proposed to establish a worldwide media forum with a one-point agenda to ensure a tolerant society in this digital era. I also shared my experience of launching the Tolerant Pakistan Media Network.

Today, the UAE can be declared a land of tolerance due to its unique model of promoting peace and co-existence for every citizen. Although the life of the UAE 's founding father and first president Sheikh Sultan Zayed was full of struggle, his greatest achievement was the formation of United Arab Emirates consisting of seven emirates. Under his visionary leadership, the UAE obtained a special prominence in the global scenario when the great Shiekh decided to ensure his homeland with modern facilities. For this purpose, he opened the doors to foreign citizens without any bias.

Sheikh Zayed was ranked among the world’s wealthiest person but he loved to establish a network of schools, hospitals and social charity initiatives all around the country. He also provided financial support in many welfare projects of neighbouring countries. He was also a strong advocate of women empowerment and protection of rights of Non-Muslim community.

The pivotal role of the Hindu community for moving the UAE towards development and prosperity is indeed remarkable. Unfortunately, there was no temple for the community to perform religious duties. In 1997, the socio-spiritual Hindu leader Pramukh Swami Maharaj visited the UAE and prayed in a desert located in Sharjah. Besides prayers for peace, he had prayed for a Hindu temple to be built in the UAE.

The crown prince of Abu Dhabi donated 13.5 acres of land for the purpose of building a Hindu temple in 2015. The said temple with seven spires that represent the UAE’s seven emirates is a true symbol of interfaith harmony and shows the firm commitment of the UAE rulers to promote tolerance and co-existence.

As part of the year of tolerance, Pope Francis, during his historic visit to the UAE, also paid rich tribute as "a land that is trying to be a model of coexistence, of human brotherhood, and a meeting place among diverse civilizations and cultures". The UAE government will also be launching an interfaith complex that will unite a church, a synagogue and a masjid.

The UAE is also first-ever country in the world with a minister for tolerance. The UAE government, while organizing the World Tolerance Summit successfully, delivered a positive message that all human beings are equal in the eyes of God. The world community, including Pakistan, must also learn from this model of tolerance in order to ensure peace, prosperity and harmony.

The writer is a member of the NationalAssembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.

Twitter: @RVankwani

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