(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Today, the UAE is celebrating the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development. Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance, said that the UAE's social cohesion has made it an international model of cultural diversity, as over 200 nationalities live together in the country.
"The UAE's cultural diversity drives its economic, social and intellectual development and supporting cultural diversity will bring together all members of the community and promote sustainable development and peace," according to Al Nahyan.
He also pointed out that the country's tolerant ethos was founded by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan when he welcomed all cultures and religions and provided them with an ideal environment for communication and coexistence.
Strengthening the government's role as an incubator of tolerance, the post of the Minister of State for Tolerance was first introduced in February 2016 when His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, announced structural changes to the 12th Cabinet, reinforcing the UAE's commitment to eradicate ideological, cultural and religious bigotry in the society.
Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi was the first Minister of State for Tolerance and in 2017. After a cabinet reshuffle, Al Nahyan was appointed the Minister of Tolerance.
Explaining the importance of the ministry, Sheikh Mohammed said: "Tolerance is no catchphrase, but a quality we must cherish and practise. It must be woven into the fabric of our society to safeguard our future and maintain the progress we have made."
At present, the UAE is taking the cudgels and championing the cause of tolerance.
This is evident in the UAE's hosting of international events, including the Human Fraternity Meeting held in February between His Holiness Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church, and Dr Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar, which led to the signing of the Human Fraternity Document.
The UAE has also established the Mohammed Bin Rashid Tolerance Award, a global initiative to encourage tolerance, and honour the champions of tolerance on global level in the fields of human thought, creative literature and fine arts. It has also established the International Institute for Tolerance and collaborated with various cultural institutions in the Arab region and beyond.
In this regard, Prasanth Manghat, CEO and executive director, NMC Health Plc., told Khaleej Times: "UAE observes pluralism and inclusivity making it a microcosm of the world's cultures, religions and practices. This drives its socio-economic and intellectual development as the residents immensely benefit from positive exchanges with others belonging to vastly different backgrounds and ethnicities."
The first country in the world that appointed Ministers for Happiness and Tolerance, the UAE is promoting the culture of love, peaceful coexistence, political stability, moderation and respect for personal freedom.
Is this Dubai
Each expat and visitor who came to the UAE for the first time would definitely have a story to tell but there is always a common tale. And that is their first brush with the UAE's diverse society.
Long-time Dubai resident and Indonesian expat Monica Lanny Witanto has this to say:
"I am an Indonesian from a Chinese ethnicity. I came to the UAE in 2008, not knowing much about this country. When I entered the plane that took me to Dubai, the first person I met at the aircraft door was an Indian and when I arrived here, the first language I heard was Tagalog. I was really surprised and I wondered to myself: Is this Dubai?
"Dubai is really a melting pot of various cultures. Slowly, I learned and immersed myself with various peoples from many countries. I was able to meet a Bhutanese, Botswana and Kyrgyztan nationals and they became my friends - something I never thought I will ever have.
"My friendship network widened and my world knowledge expanded after meeting more friends from Eritrea and Comoros. I also learned to speak Arabic, and studied the nuances of how other Arab nationals speak.
"In terms of religion, I feel blessed to be able to practise my Christian faith. The beauty in this country is that it respects others and it has a high tolerance."
The main initiatives
>>International Day for Tolerance every November 16
>>Revised UAE laws and regulations to promote tolerance and renounce violence, extremism and fanaticism.
>>Set national indexes and consolidate the UAE's position in global competitiveness indexes
>>Launched the Corporate Tolerance Responsibility (CTR) programme for public and private organisations
>>Launched the Tolerance, Co-existence and Peace Charter in public organisations and for individuals in society (Teacher's Charter, Student's Charter, Citizen's Charter, Expat's Charter, Employee's Charter, etc.).
>>Held specialised workshops to spread awareness on the concepts of tolerance, and reject racism and fanaticism.
>>Launched mutual initiatives with the Ministry of Community Development addressing various segments of society, mainly married couples.
>>Launched mutual initiatives in collaboration with the Ministry of Education addressing teachers and students.
>>Promoted the principles of tolerance among sports and students' clubs, universities, colleges and schools
>>Created a Tolerance Volunteer Association
>>Established Mohammed Bin Rashid Tolerance Award, a global initiative to encourage tolerance, and honour the champions of tolerance on global level in the fields of human thought, creative literature and fine arts.
>>Created an International Institute for Tolerance to offer advice and expert views on policies to promote the values of tolerance among nations,
>>Held Tolerance International Conference and launched the World Charter for Tolerance, Co-existence and Peace.