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UAE proud to stand with Pope in battle for hearts, Abdullah says

Writing for CNN, he says Mohammad’s visit comes at a time constructive dialogue between people of all faiths is of paramount importance

Staff Report
19:51 September 15, 2016
Pope Francis greets Shaikh Abdullah

Vatican City: Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, who is accompanying His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, on the visit to Rome to meet with Pope Francis shared his thoughts on the significance of the visit with CNN.

Writing exclusively for the news platform, Shaikh Abdullah referred to the meeting between Shaikh Mohammed and the Pope as “the highest-level official delegation from the Gulf state ever to visit the Vatican” and said the visit comes at a time when “constructive dialogue between people of all faiths is of paramount importance”.

Stating that the UAE is proud to stand with the Pope, Shaikh Abdullah said, “It is critical to take every opportunity to show a united front against all forms of intolerance. Pope Francis has reached out to faith leaders of all religions to reject extremism wherever it occurs. The UAE is proud to stand with him. We believe that the ideology and actions of extremists do not represent the core ethos of Islam and must be loudly denounced on that basis. Above all, this is a battle for hearts and minds.”

Referring to the terrorist ideology, Shaikh Abdullah said that in the use of their sophisticated use of digital and social media to glorify murder and destruction, groups such as Daesh continue to lure young people from all over the world into their ranks. “We must use every tool available to us to defeat their nihilist ideology of hatred. In this endeavour, the UAE has acted in collaboration with friends, who share our values.”

He drew attention to the UAE, which in partnership with the United States, established the Sawab Centre in Abu Dhabi, “an organisation specifically tasked with countering violence and extremism on digital platforms and through social media campaigns”, he said.

Shaikh Abdullah also drew attention to the different methodologies that need to be employed to overcome such divisive ideologies. “While confronting extremists in the digital arena is an essential component of the broader fight, there are other methods that we must use to target at risk groups,” he said.

“The UAE’s opposition to extremist groups that exemplify intolerance spans more than two decades, from our participation in international coalitions against the likes of the Taliban, Al Qaida and Daesh in Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, Syria and Iraq,” he said.

He said the UAE’s belief in its future by human advancement “characterises our approach to development assistance around the world, but is best expressed in the society we have created inside the UAE”.

“Within a region rife with sectarian-fuelled conflict, the UAE is a peaceful home to a multiplicity of diverse nationalities and ethnicity, living side by side in a culture of unity, religious tolerance, inclusivity and economic opportunity.”

Referring to the region’s immediate need for peace and stability, Shaikh Abdullah said that “our ultimate goal, together with friends and allies, is to restore the Middle East to a path of hope, progress and lasting prosperity for all.”