Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid awards UAE pioneers of tolerance
Dozens of UAE residents were honoured at an annual awards ceremony in Abu Dhabi for their efforts to promote peace and tolerance.
More than 3,000 people were nominated for the prestigious UAE Pioneers Award, with the winners announced yesterday.
The ceremony, attended by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, was held at the end of the Government Annual Meeting in the capital.
At the gathering hundreds of local and federal officials come together to discuss new ideas aimed at driving forward the country’s social and economic agenda.
The Pioneers Awards – seen as one of the Emirates’ most distinguished accolades – were presented to people and groups judged to have led the way in highlighting a spirit of tolerance.
“Today, we honoured teams and heroes at the end of the Year of Tolerance in the UAE,” Sheikh Mohammed tweeted.
Among the high-profile winners of the award was Saji Cheriyan, a Christian from India who built and paid for a Dh1.3 million mosque in Fujairah last year. The businessman took on the project to give hundreds of Muslim workers in accommodation he owned the opportunity to pray.
Mr Cheriyan was joined by the Reverend Canon Andrew Thompson, who was also presented with the award.
The Anglican clergyman, who lives and works in Abu Dhabi, in February released a book, Celebrating Tolerance: Religious Diversity in the United Arab Emirates.
“We know there is some
intolerance that comes out of the Middle East, but I’d like to challenge that stereotype, being a Christian leader in the Middle East, and say that Christians are not persecuted in the United Arab Emirates.
“In fact, quite the opposite,” Rev Thompson told The National earlier this year.
Other winners of the award included Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development.
She received the accolade for her help in highlighting internationally the UAE’s model for building more tolerant, open societies.
Similarly, the UAE Ambassador to Lebanon, Hamad Al Shamsi, was honoured for spreading the notion of tolerance to Lebanese society.
In addition to awards presented in person, there were also posthumous honours for people who dedicated their lives to helping others.
Abdul Salam Rafi, who established the first centre for diabetes and the treatment of hormone imbalance in the UAE, was recognised for his work.
“Honouring role models who contributed to promoting tolerance reflects the importance of this value to the UAE leadership and Emirati people, especially with this unprecedented level of engagement from individuals and entities in the Year of Tolerance,” said Sultan Fahad, General Co-ordinator of the UAE Pioneers Initiative, which organised the ceremony.
Speaking at the Government Annual Meeting, Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, acknowledged the huge achievements the country had made in the past year, including welcoming Pope Francis to Abu Dhabi and the signing of the Human Fraternity Document by the Pope and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Dr Ahmed Al Tayeb.
“This document crowned the efforts that extended over 30 years to ultimately establish the record of tolerance on the land of the UAE,” he said.
The minister also reflected on a year in which Hazza Al Mansouri was sent to space and the
To complement the successes achieved throughout 2019, we aspire to further progress during 2020
DR ANWAR GARGASH Minister of State for Foreign Affairs
Emirati passport was named as being one of the most powerful in the world in terms of visa-free movement.
“This is one of the greatest achievements this year,” he said, referring to the space mission. “It asserts the approach of the UAE to adopt science and entrepreneurship to shape a better future. To complement the successes achieved throughout 2019, we aspire to further progress during 2020 and furnish solid preparations for hosting Expo 2020, the largest economic event in the world organised under the directions of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid.”
Above, UAE residents who went above and beyond to promote tolerance receive awards from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, at the Government Annual Meeting yesterday. Below, left, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development Noura Al Kaabi, left, and Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed, Chairwoman of Dubai Culture, at the Pioneer Awards