It’s official! Tolerance is government policy in the UAE.
There is a Minister of State for Tolerance, His Highness Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and 2019 was declared the Year of Tolerance for which a series of initiatives is planned. See https://www.government.ae. That is the context in which the recent 3-5 February events in Abu Dhabi took place.
Prominent among the 700 specially invited guests to the GLOBAL CONFERENCE FOR HUMAN FRATERNITY hosted by the Muslim Council of Elders were Pope Francis as Head of the Catholic Church and the Grand Imam of Al-Azshar, leader of the Sunni branch of Islam. Delegates included all world religions and interfaith bodies. After the deliberations the two leaders signed a historic document entitled, “Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together.”
Pope Francis addressed various gatherings. Addressing the Conference he was outspoken in his condemnation of war, saying “War cannot create anything but misery; weapons bring nothing but death! Human fraternity requires of us, as representatives of the world’s religions, the duty to reject every nuance of approval for the word ‘war.’ He raised a number of other possibly controversial subjects, including discrimination against non-Muslims, rights of women and citizenship for migrants as well as educational systems that radicalise young people.
The Holy Father was afforded the opportunity to celebrate Mass at the Zayed Sports City Stadium for and with some of the 900 000 Catholics resident in the region. Reportedly 180 000 participated, mostly foreign workers from the Philippines, a poor and overwhelmingly Catholic nation, and other expatriates. There are few Catholics among the local Muslim people who make up only 20% of the UAE population and do hold a privileged position.
In his homily the pope chose to focus on the Beatitudes as models of tolerance and described them as a roadmap for our life in imitation of Jesus himself. He singled out “blessed are the meek” and “blessed are the peacemakers” and emphasized the holiness of daily life which does not require superhuman actions but keeping our hearts pure, practising meekness and justice, being merciful to all and living out our difficulties in union with God. See reports in www.zenit.org and https://gulfnews.com
But what is to be said about tolerance?
The UAE government website https://www.government.ae explains that Tolerance is a fundamental value in the UAE. It is a virtue and an intrinsic part of the Islamic culture. How is it lived in practice there and elsewhere by the different religions and cultures?
Would tolerance be too tall an order in South Africa, our own country where differences are exploited often at present in election season for political advantage? How can tolerance address the fight against human trafficking, commemorated on 8 February? Would tolerance be too tall an order in our interpersonal relations on a human level, here and everywhere? What are our standards?
In marriage ministry over the years tolerance was recognised but also challenged. Is tolerating possible annoying habits and behaviours of a spouse in marriage enough? Is tolerance between old and young, in ways of acting, dressing, speaking, dealing with the challenges of technology enough? Is more called for? Beyond tolerance there is acceptance and unconditional love experienced mostly uniquely and ideally modelled in the intimacy of family relationships. Is that too tall an order?
Pope Francis as always ended on a note of hope. “In a world torn apart by so many differences, going in different directions, unity can be elusive. There’s an antidote: The union of married couples who bear each other’s burdens, the union the UAE represents, a people united in peace, mutual respect, tolerance and love, in a kind of union that liberates the human person.” “There’s so much that can tear us apart, but there’s so much more that we share, that blesses people and nations. “ Pope Francis 5 February 2019 at the Mass in Abu Dhabi Sport City. TR. MARFAM FAMILY WEEKLY 6 FEBRUARY 2019.
LOVING FAMILIES MATTER is MARFAM’S February theme. WORLD MARRIAGE DAY can be celebrated on 2nd Sunday, 10th February with the theme “Love one another ”