Gargash: Pope visit overcomes the challenge posed by extremism in all religions

07 February, 2019, 04:51 | Author: Clarence Schmidt
  • Two men and a girl pose for a selfie with a cutout image of Pope Francis ahead of his visit to the United Arab Emirates
Credit GIUSEPPE CACACE AFP

Advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) had urged the pope to use his visit to the UAE to highlight abuses it said are now being carried out in the Gulf state.

On Monday, February 4, when Pope Francis arrived at the UAE's magnificient palace, his auto of choice looked pretty small in front of a fleet of luxurious cars used by the Shiekhs and ministers of the country.

It's the day Pope Francis has chosen to celebrate Holy Mass in Abu Dhabi's Zayed Sports City for some 135,000 faithful who have managed to obtain a ticket.

The Pope returned to the topic of Yemen in his speech Monday night at the Founder's Memorial, when he spoke about the "miserable crudeness" of war.

Highlighting conflicts in regions such as Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Libya, the pontiff said: "God is with those who seek peace".

Al-Tayeb, on the other hand, asked Muslims to embrace their Christian brothers, adding that there is no minority and both of them have equal rights and responsibilities.

The pope called for the "full recognition of the other and his or her freedom" in a meeting with Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the top Sunni Muslim cleric.

In his address, the pontiff pushed the need for justice, equality of citizens' rights and an end to all wars, including in Yemen.


"I look forward to societies where people of different beliefs have the same right of citizenship", Francis said to a gathering of religious and political leaders, touching on a sensitive question for his host country as well as the rest of the Middle East.

Entitled the Human Fraternity Document, the document pledges that al-Azhar and the Vatican will work together to fight extremism, claiming to be in the name of "all victims of wars, persecution and injustice", and warns against a "third world war being fought piecemeal".

The document also promises changes on another contentious topic within Islam, the role of women. People chanted "Pope Francis" and "Viva El Papa" as he waved at them aboard the popemobile.

And the newspaper, The Arab News, was even speculating that Francis could become the first pope to visit Saudi Arabia.

"For me as a Christian, this is one of the most important days of my life", said Thomas Tijo, a 44-year-old from India's southern state of Kerala, who lives in the UAE and travelled by bus in the early hours to get to the stadium. Majority are from the Philippines and India and have left family behind to come for jobs in the Emirates where they can face precarious work conditions.

Hundreds of protestors have been arrested, jailed and had their citizenship revoked over what the government says is "terrorism" linked to Iran.

Thousands of people cheering and waving Vatican flags lined the entrance to the stadium, with the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and Abu Dhabi's skyscrapers glinting in the distance.

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