Abu Dhabi: The pontiff will attend the Global Conference on Human Fraternity at the behest of the UAE’s leadership, which has proclaimed 2019 the “Year of Tolerance”, a move scorned by human rights activists.
Along with Saudi Arabia, the UAE is heavily involved in the war in Yemen – dubbed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis – and has a problematic human rights record. The UAE has also imposed an air, land, and sea blockade on Qatar, which has severely affected relations among Gulf countries over the past two years.
Whether Pope Francis will address these issues is not clear, but expectations run high that the pope may do so in private talks with the UAE’s leadership.
The international gathering of religious scholars is aimed at promoting tolerance and peace between the two faiths, said the Muslim Council of Elders organising the event.
Pope Francis is also expected to meet with the Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyib, Head of Al Azhar, one of the highest religious authorities in the Muslim world.
On Tuesday, the pope will deliver a mass to about 135,000 worshippers who were able to get a free ticket to attend the celebration at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi.