UAE sends message of peace after year of world turmoil

Published:  28 Dec at 6 PM
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Tagged: USA, UK, Canada, India, UAE, Euro, England
Christians in Abu Dhabi flocked to St Joseph’s Cathedral’s midnight mass to send a message of hope and peace to the troubled world.

Tolerance, peace and hope was the Christmas Eve message from the UAE Christian community to the rest of the world during an outdoor midnight mass in Abu Dhabi. The scene as the day drew to an end couldn’t have been more different than the similar gathering in Bethlehem, set behind metal barricades and separated from the rest of the Holy Land by a towering wall.

Elsewhere across the world, European outdoor festivities were marred by fear following the terrorist attack in Berlin’s famous Christmas market, and in Iraq, Christian communities are now exiled for their own safety to refugee camps in neighbouring countries. In America, family celebrations in millions of homes were muted due to concerns over the upcoming Trump presidency, and expats living and working in the UK did their best to celebrate in spite of their fears of deportation post-Brexit.

The scene in Abu Dhabi couldn’t have been more different, with Christmas carols wafting from the sound system, a glittering Christmas tree sparkling in a pool of white light and worshippers lining up before a statue of the Virgin Mary to say a prayer for world peace. Speaking with reporters from the National newspaper, Fr Thomas Sebastian said the country is more accepting of other religions than the rest of the Gulf States due to its rulers’ generosity and tolerance.

The UAE, he said, is a beacon of tolerance in a world now experiencing unprecedented levels of bigotry and extremism, adding its dedicated Ministry of Tolerance continues to promote acceptance and understanding of other cultures and religions. Fr Francis believes its efforts send a strong message to the outside world of respect for all religions.

Sister Carmen, an Indian nun resident for nine years in Abu Dhabi and part-organiser of the midnight mass, agreed, saying she appreciated the emirate’s religious tolerance and its allowing of Christian celebrations. Other hubs for religious celebrations in Abu Dhabi included the St Andrews’ Anglican community’s midnight mass and the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral’s services.
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