Zayed’s stress was on religious tolerance, peaceful co-existence

DUBAI — Religious tolerance and peaceful co-existence were some of the many great tenets of the policies of the late president, Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who adhered to the universal and timeless teachings of Islam, said participants at a symposium on the life and achievements of the late leader on the second and final day of the event.

By A Correspondent

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Published: Mon 13 Dec 2004, 11:35 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 1:28 PM

‘Man in Zayed’s Era’ was the theme of the symposium, highlighting the achievements of Shaikh Zayed in the field of human rights and the building of the young nation.

The symposium, commemorating the 56th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, was held under the auspices of General Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Defence Minister.

Final-day discussions were attended by Brigadier Dr Jamal Mohammed Khalifa Al Mari, Deputy Chief of Dubai Police; Lieutenant Colonel Dr Mohammed Abdullah Al Mur, Director of the Human Rights Administration at Dubai Police; and other senior officials. Researchers from various countries took part in the sessions yesterday.

In his concluding remarks, Brig. Dr Al Mari extended thanks to all participants in the two-day gathering at the Dubai Police Officers Club, especially the Interior Minister, Major-General Shaikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who received the medal and the plaque of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees which on Saturday posthumously honoured Shaikh Zayed in appreciation of the humanitarian support he rendered to the agency and to the great attention he paid to refugees everywhere in the world. Maj.-Gen. Shaikh Saif received the honours from Radhwan Nuwaiser, deputy director of the Regional Bureau, Central Asia, South-west Asia, North Africa and the Middle East.

Brig. Dr Al Mari also thanked Lieutenant-General Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, Commander-in-Chief of Dubai Police for taking part in the symposium as well as all other top speakers.

Dr Mohammed Abdul Rahim Sultan Al Olama, Deputy Chairman of the Board of Directors, the Council of Religious and Charity Work Council in Dubai, and Assistant Dean of the Faculty of Islamic Shariah for Scientific Research at the UAE University, spoke about the human side of the life of Shaikh Zayed. He said the human side of the late leader is multi-faceted. He said Shaikh Zayed was a just leader and he had loved justice and applied it on all. He said his daily meetings with people from all walks of life showed his love for the people and care for all.

“He has been an exemplary leader in dealing with people of knowledge, with children, with youths, with women, with the physically-challenged, with orphans, with widows, with prisoners, with the people’s of world’s countries at large”, said Dr Al Olama.

Monk Priest Esehak Anba Bishoy of St. Antonious Coptic Church in Abu Dhabi, said Shaikh Zayed had laid down the foundations of human principles on which the UAE is built.

“We all believe in one God… and the sound understanding of any religion must be based on the core and not the outside cover... this is the basis for dialogue. We have found in the UAE better than what we had expected. We found ourselves with nationals and expatriates living on this blessed land in love and brotherhood,” said Monk Priest Bishoy.

He said the achievements realised on the land of the UAE were the result of the wise leadership of Shaikh Zayed.

“Shaikh Zayed created national unity, not only among the UAE people but also among the expatriate communities. He did not differentiate between a local and an expatriate, as his love reached out to all. He did not discriminate between nationals and expatriates or between male and female or between one religion and another. He was responding to the needs of all, providing all human services including religious care needed for the communities living in the UAE,” added Monk Priest Bishoy and underlined that Article 40 of the UAE Constitution guaranteed all rights and freedoms adopted in international laws for people living on this land.

“He allowed us to build churches and enjoy the freedom of worship. Three churches were built: St. Andrew Anglican Church, St. Joseph Catholic Church and St. George Indian Orthodox Church, on Abu Dhabi Corniche,” he explained.

In early 1974, Egyptian Copts were allowed to invite a monk priest from Kuwait to hold monthly prayers in Abu Dhabi. “Our first religious rituals were held in June 1974 at St. Joseph Catholic Church,” he said.

In 1976, Egyptian Copts were allowed to rent a hall at the St. Joseph Catholic Church to hold a weekly spiritual meeting, besides the monthly prayers. Arab Anglicans, who were holding prayers at a rented villa, were then allowed to have a plot of land in Mushref to build a church. Construction started in 1993 and was completed in 1994.

By the end of 1978, a monk to look after the religious affairs of Copts in the UAE was given the right of abode. In 1980, a Coptic monk came to live in Dubai and he was alternating the holding of religious meetings with the monk of the Abu Dhabi church in the oasis city of Al Ain. In 1997, the first Coptic monk came to live in Al Ain.

In 1982, all Christian places of worship were relocated to Al Mushref area, and the Abu Dhabi government made contributions to the costs of church building in the new area. The Abu Dhabi Municipality also made a contribution expanding the plot of land designated for prayer buildings. The first expansion was in 1990 and the second in 1998.

“Shaikh Zayed’s tolerance was so clear when he invited Pope Shnoda the 3rd, Pope of Alexandria, to take part in a festival on Jerusalem along with Shaikh Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, the Shaikh of Azhar at the time.”

Monk Priest Bishoy said Shaikh Zayed, and the President, His Highness Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, made great contributions by allocating lands to build Orthodox Coptic churches for Copts living in the UAE. He said the first church was opened in Sharjah in 2003 and the second this year. He said work was on two other churches; one in Abu Dhabi and the other in Dubai. Lands were also allocated for other sects to build churches on them.

“His love for all was great.. the love whose source is the love of God. It is the basis of religious tolerance that enhanced the position of the UAE on the Arab and international levels,” said Monk Bishoy.

Yesterday’s sessions also included presentations by Shaikh Mohammed bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Assistant Under-Secretary of the Sharjah Medical Zone; Dr Fahd Al Sabhan, first public prosecutor in Dubai; Lieutenant-General Dr Mohammed Khalifa Al Mualla, security expert and former chief of Sharjah Police; Shaikh Saeed Al Zayani, Islamic preacher based in Qatar; Jamal Obaid Al Buh, Director General of the Marriage Fund; Dr Khalifa Al Suwaidi, associate professor, UAE University; and Thani Juma Balragad, Director of Public Relations at the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The symposium was held as part of activities marking the International Human Rights Day, which was observed the world over on Friday. The General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the 30-article Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) on December 10, 1948.

Officials said the symposium focused on the achievements of Shaikh Zayed in the field of human rights. Research papers concentrated on the human aspects of Shaikh Zayed’s life, socio-economic and political development, security, justice and religious freedom, protection of the environment, among others.

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