Sheikh of tolerance: 'We are not deterred by voices of hatred'

First-person: Evangelical delegation holds visit with Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan

 Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the UAE’s minister of Tolerance and Coexistence, meets with Joel C. Rosenberg and an Evangelical delegation, Apr. 26, 2022  (photo credit: Courtesy / ALL ARAB NEWS)
Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the UAE’s minister of Tolerance and Coexistence, meets with Joel C. Rosenberg and an Evangelical delegation, Apr. 26, 2022
(photo credit: Courtesy / ALL ARAB NEWS)

After our extraordinary visit to the Kingdom of Bahrain last week, our “Abraham Accords Delegation of Evangelical Business & Media Leaders” has spent the last several days in the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

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On Wednesday, our day included a 90-minute conversation with His Excellency Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the UAE’s minister of Tolerance and Coexistence.

Given the history of radical Islamist terrorism, war and even genocide in the Middle East and North Africa, it’s encouraging that the Emiratis have appointed a senior-level cabinet minister to build bridges of cooperation and trust between people of other faiths.

And Sheikh Nahyan is not only the first and only minister of tolerance in the region, but in the world.

I began our conversation by thanking him and his country for signing the Abraham Accords and for asking me to bring this second delegation of Evangelical leaders to the UAE to see how the accords are being implemented. I noted that in our previous visit in October 2018, Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed (MBZ) told us he was going to make peace with Israel.

Less than two years later — on August 13, 2020 — MBZ kept his promise and announced the UAE was going to be the first Arab nation in a quarter of a century to normalize relations with the Jewish state.

“If we say something, we mean it,” Sheikh Nahyan told us. “And what we do, we don’t do behind closed doors. We don’t hide our decisions.

“When we believe in something, we have the courage to act. We have great leadership."

We asked the sheikh how he would assess the future of the Abraham Accords, especially in light of the threats posed by the Iranian regime, the Muslim Brotherhood and other extremist entities.

“We won’t be threatened. We don’t hide. We believe in human dignity. And believe it was time to make peace with Israel.”

“But making peace requires leadership,” he noted. “And it takes courage to take this forward, to create a better world, to show that we can achieve miracles by talking to each other, by eliminating this artificial mistrust, this ignorance of each other.

“All of us [in the UAE] want to have a better world — we want peace,” the sheikh said. “But our crown prince doesn’t only talk about peace, he makes it happen.

“If we [as Emiratis] hesitated because of opponents and enemies, we would never make progress. We would still be in tents. But we have the courage to take the lead and help change our region.

“And we believe there are many other good people — like yourself and others — who are not being deterred by these voices of hatred,” the sheikh added. “And we are determined. No one will stop us from building on the Abraham Accords. We are not worried about the enemies of peace, but we will fight against their efforts.

“We will fight anything which will harm our peace, our security, or interfere in what we do, or misrepresent us and distort our religion.”

Joel C. Rosenberg is the editor-in-chief of All Arab News. He is a New York Times best-selling author, Middle East analyst and Evangelical who lives in Jerusalem.