UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan has announced that 2019 will be marked as the Year of Tolerance. Though the name might be different, many are viewing 2019’s celebrations as an extension to last year’s observances of the Year of Zayed, which marked the 100th anniversary of Sheikh Zayed’s birth. This year is being viewed as an extension because one of Sheikh Zayed’s most important and fundamental teachings, was his focus on encouraging tolerance in all forms.
Celebrations and observances for 2019’s Year of Tolerance will be centered on five core pillars:
- Increasing the values of tolerance and co-existence by focusing on instilling these values in the country’s youth population.
- Solidifying the UAE as the global capital for tolerance through ongoing initiatives, projects, and events.
- Building tolerant communities through hosting cultural programs and events.
- Policy-oriented initiatives with a particular focus on cultural and religious tolerance.
- Boosting the principles of co-existence through leveraging the media.
The UAE’s position as a global leader in tolerance can be attributed to the teachings of Sheikh Zayed’a and his legacy is still going strong. In 2016, the UAE became the only country in the world to introduce a ministry and minister for tolerance—a position currently held by Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarek Al Nahyan. Additionally, in 2017 on the 22nd International Day of Tolerance (observed on November 16), HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, renamed one of Dubai’s most iconic structures—the pedestrian bridge over the Dubai Canal—the Tolerance Bridge. It’s also estimated that citizens from over 200 nationalities call the UAE home.
In other words, because tolerance is so deeply engrained in the culture of the UAE, choosing to recognize it officially for 2019 is a natural choice.
Events and celebrations to recognize the Year of Tolerance are already well underway, but perhaps the most significant event will occur in early February when Pope Francis pays his first visit to the UAE. Hosting the leader of the Catholic Church is a significant gesture and demonstration of the type of tolerant society the UAE stands for.
In addition to an historic visit from Pope Francis, other notable events/milestones related to the Year of Tolerance include:
- Construction of the UAE’s first Hindu temple.
- Days after the announcement was made declaring 2019 the Year of Tolerance, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai formed the Supreme National Committee for Tolerance—a group comprised of a diverse mix of individuals dedicated to policy development and legislation in support of tolerance.
- The Special Olympics World Games will be held in Abu Dhabi in March—marking the first time the games will be held in a Middle Eastern country.
- In an official decree, it was announced that women must occupy 50 per cent of the seats in upcoming Federal National Council elections. (Currently, women only hold 20 per cent of the 40 available seats.)
Celebrating the UAE’s unique values of tolerance will be yet another chance for the nation to showcase its considerable strengths on a world stage. 2019 is already shaping up to be an exciting and historic year!