We need to respect the otherness of others

Societies truly flourish when people shed their biases and celebrate differences. The UAE is a perfect example of this.

By Surender Singh Kandhari

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Published: Wed 30 Jan 2019, 7:00 PM

Last updated: Wed 30 Jan 2019, 9:29 PM

Interfaith harmony is the bedrock of a pluralistic society. It ensures respect, safety and dignity for all. Societies truly flourish when people shed their biases and celebrate differences. The UAE is a perfect example of this. The emirates promotes tolerance and inclusive living, giving people the space to practice their faiths and religions. The leadership has been gracious and liberal in extending support to different initiatives related to faith.
No one is excluded.
The year 2019 has been dedicated as the year of tolerance, but in essence the UAE has been celebrating this virtue every day since time immemorial. Come to think of it, the UAE must be the only country that is practicing tolerance in the true sense. Home to 200 nationalities, people here have been living in harmony and working together towards collective progress and better life. The UAE doesn't differentiate on the basis of castes, nationalities or religions, which makes the emirates truly an international and inter-cultural place. Respect for others is the way of life.
The Gurudwara Guru Nanak Darbar, of which I am the Chairman, has been fortunate enough to host and organise multiple events that promote plurality and interfaith harmony. It all has been possible because of the invaluable support of the government. Under the patronage of Sheikh Nahayan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Tolerance, we have sponsored and hosted the first Annual World Interfaith Harmony Day in Dubai in 2016. It was attended by eminent speakers and delegates from around the world.
In 2017, the gurudwara celebrated UN International Day of Peace. The event was organised in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme UAE and supported by the minister of state for tolerance. In the same year, the Sikh temple hosted breakfast for 101 nationalities, a symbolic gesture to showcase and uphold the value of diversity. More than 600 participants took part and broke the bread together.
These are just some of the few initiatives taken by the gurudwara. Cooperation and joint service initiatives have been the cornerstone of our efforts. Since 2015, we in cooperation with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been helping blue-collar workers. The support of the ministry of tolerance has been key to all our events.
The upcoming visit of Pope Francis, the first in the region, is important. It confirms the openness of the government and the Rulers in the UAE, and further strengthens the resolve of the leaders to spread the message of tolerance, mutual understanding, respect and regards for each other's faith. This is the epitome of interfaith harmony. As an Islamic country, the UAE is setting an example for others in the region in welcoming the head of the Catholic faith. It should inspire and encourage others to go in this direction.
We, the people, on our part should make a conscious effort to respect and serve others so we can live in peaceful harmony and happy coexistence. Sikhism has always embraced diversity; it has been part of our faith and belief. Guru Nanak Devji had said, "Accept all humans as your equals, and let them be your only sect." By respecting the otherness of others, we are fulfilling God's teachings and we are spreading love and happiness. A positive mental attitude can get rid of negative feelings, hatred, and intolerance. Be more forgiving, more conscious and in touch with the people around you. Take every opportunity to radiate positivity inside out. We are all God's children and we should all live like one big family.
Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and equality. Accepting people's differences is another way of showing it.
Surender Singh Kandhari is the Chairman of the Gurudwara Guru Nanak Darbar in Dubai

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