Rabbis praise tolerance at UAE interfaith conference

Pope and Grand Imam of Al-Azhar meet in Abu Dhabi as 700 religious leaders gather for Conference of Human Fraternity.

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February 4, 2019 09:50
2 minute read.
Pope Francis, Head of the Catholic Church shakes hands with Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb, Egyptian

Pope Francis, Head of the Catholic Church shakes hands with Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb, Egyptian Imam.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich, said that Jews and Muslims have lived together for thousands of years, in comments on the sidelines of a major interfaith gathering in Abu Dhabi. He is one of several rabbis – including Rabbi Marc Schneier, founder of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding – attending the event, according to local reports and sources.

“It was only in the past century that we came on this tremendous tension,” Schudrich said to UAE’s The National. “Let’s diminish the tension.” He said that there is a small and vibrant Jewish community in the UAE today. “This is something that was not obvious three to five years ago.” He participated in a panel on promoting peace and celebrating diversity.

“There is a wrong stereotype that we use that says different religions can’t speak to each other, that a Jew can’t talk to a Muslim,” he said. But in fact, all these different religions can sit together, he said, according to the report.

The interfaith events of the Conference of Human Fraternity coincide with the pope’s visit. Pope Francis arrived Sunday night and has already met with guides, including Dr. Ahmad Al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar. The Tayeb-Francis meeting is considered a high point of the tolerance events. Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi, welcomed the pope and the Grand Imam.

“The flourishing of love, tolerance and harmony instilled in this good land,” he tweeted. He says that the UAE is becoming an oasis of tolerance that “serves the good of all mankind.” The Gulf state has declared 2019 the year of tolerance. The UAE says that 700 leaders from more than 12 religions are taking part.

Schneier, who has played a formative role in outreach to the Gulf, has praised the event. In a tweet, he wrote that it was an honor to be in Abu Dhabi and to represent Jewish communities in the Gulf during the historic visit, calling it: “A new era for interfaith relations.” In comments to The Financial Times, he said that there is a shift in the Gulf to develop Jewish communities as states engage in more interfaith activity.


In a video that UAE Forsan put up, Schudrich discussed the need to bring the world closer to peace and praised the country’s efforts to host religious figures from around the world.

Rabbi Abraham Skorka, author of an interfaith book and rector of the Seminario Rabinico Latinoamericano, which trains Conservative rabbis, also attended the gathering.

“What we must create is a language and attitude of peace,” he told the Emirates News Agency. He had worked on interfaith issues with the Pope when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires.

“Both of us understood and understand that one of the most important things through which we serve God is creating a reality of peace,” the news agency reported him saying. He also praised UAE for the tolerance initiative amid the wars and conflicts that have taken place recently in the region and the world.

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