ABU DHABI: The growing level of intolerance in the world needs to be combatted by teaching children to be more inclusive, Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said on Sunday.
Speaking at the Human Fraternity Conference in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi, Aboul Gheit said the conference was happening “in the right place at the right time.”
He added: “There is no more important value today than tolerance, as sectarianism and racism rear their ugly heads all over the world.”
Extremism and hatred are expressed mostly through religion and politics, resulting in wars that have “nothing to do with religion,” he said.
Aboul Gheit suggested introducing the concept of tolerance in school curriculums. “We must grow up learning about and from other religions and faiths to raise our understanding,” he said.
The Human Fraternity Conference marks the start of the UAE’s “Year of Tolerance,” which is aimed at promoting dialogue between nations and faiths.
The visit by Pope Francis, who arrived in Abu Dhabi on Sunday night, is the first by a pontiff in the Arabian Peninsula.
In his opening remarks, Emirati Minister of Tolerance Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al-Nahyan said the pope’s involvement in the conference was a true reflection of the “power of tolerance and human fraternity.”
Al-Nayhan added: “It is my aspiration that this conference and its outcomes will be known as a landmark event improving global relations.”
The pope and Al-Azhar’s Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmad El-Tayeb “are global forces for compassion and peace,” said Al-Nahyan.
“Their participation in this conference speaks eloquently on the power of tolerance and human fraternity.”
He said the conference was a multicultural event that encouraged compassion, respect and understanding among different communities, cultures and religions.
“The gathering enables us to counter extremism, prejudice, hate, aggression, greed and oppression that violate the very idea of human fraternity,” he added.
It is necessary to combat “the destructive forces of extremism, terrorism, poverty, degradation of women, environmental abuse, illiteracy and prejudice,” Al-Nahyan said.
Speaking at a press conference later, Dr. Sultan Faisal Al-Remeithi, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Elders, said the event included more than 10 religious sects.
“It (the conference) carries a real message about peace in the world by introducing a concept that all of us are keen to implement,” he said.
The pope’s visit falls under the UAE’s strategy of being a country that hosts 200 nationalities and a multitude of faiths and beliefs, Al-Remeithi added.