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Thu 3 Nov 2016 01:59 PM

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Archbishop of Canterbury hails UAE for religious tolerance

Head of the Church of England praises steps taken in the UAE to enable minorities to meet, teach and worship

Archbishop of Canterbury hails UAE for religious tolerance

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the leader of the Church of England, has praised the UAE for its steps to enable religious minorities to meet, teach, worship and express themselves.

The Archbishop made the comments in his keynote address at a dialogue on integration and religious freedom organised by the Muslim Council of Elder.

"It is fitting too that we meet in a country (the UAE) which has taken practical steps to enable religious minorities to meet, teach, worship and express themselves," he said.

After worshipping at St Andrew's Church in Abu Dhabi, he said it was "to the credit of the authorities and government here that Christian worship has been allowed to flourish and grow and we thank you again".

"I am concerned that this is becoming the exception rather than the rule though in many parts of the world," he added.

"It shows a confidence in granting freedom, and a self confidence which is fitting and proper. We can only be grateful for the clear thinking expressed here. This freedom cannot be taken for granted in a world currently beset by a crisis of confidence in the rights it pledged itself to uphold in the aftermath of the Second World War."

He added: "The challenge then is for all of us at this conference to make some serious progress in establishing not just the theological foundations for flourishing and integrated societies where freedom of religion and belief is a given, but to go much further and to establish practical steps to ensure this happens in the societies and countries we represent and live in."

According to the Archbishop, the Church of England is at the forefront of advocating the rights of Muslim communities to establish schools and mosques across the country.

"It is a cause for celebration that faith communities play such a vibrant role in every strata of British life and society," he said.

Dr Ahmed Al-Tayeb, the President of the Muslims Council of Elders, said the meeting, the first of its kind in the Arab World and Middle East, aims to take new steps towards building a more understanding and integrated world.

"Spread of materialism, atheism and anti-religious and oppressive policies are behind many tragedies the humanity is enduring today," he said.

"Humanity today is yearning to go back to the essence of heavenly religions and their human and moral teachings after it tested and experienced many destructive, tyrant, arrogant and expansionist experiments," he added.

Last month, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, announced plans to set up the International Institute for Tolerance which aims to fight fundamentalism, seclusion and sectarianism.

The institute is part of a global initiative launched by Sheikh Mohammed to stamp out extremism, and to honour champions of tolerance throughout the world, news agency WAM reported.