The International Religious Freedom Report 2008 released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labour affiliated to the Department of State, surveyed the life in the UAE to establish that the country keenly protects freedom of faith and encourages tolerance among the followers of various religions.
The recent edition of the report cited several efforts being made in the country to boost interfaith understanding.
Among them was a symposium organised by the Centre for Information Affairs in Abu Dhabi, on 'The Role of the Vatican in Spreading the Principles of Coexistence in the World and the Religious Tolerance in the United Arab Emirates'.
The key speakers of the symposium held earlier in May this year included Archbishop Mounged El-Hachem, the Papal Nuncio to the United Arab Emirates and Bishop Paul Hinder, Apostolic Vicar for the entire Arabian Peninsula and Bishop of St. Joseph's Catholic Cathedral.
The report noted that the constitution of UAE provides for freedom of religion in accordance with established customs.
Earlier in June 2008, President Khalifa's Religious Affairs Adviser Al-Sayed Ali al-Hashemi hosted an interfaith gathering at his residence, to which he invited the Apostolic Vicar of Arabia and Roman Catholic Bishop of Abu Dhabi, Paul Hinder, and the local Coptic Church patriarch to deliver homilies to a gathering of Muslim scholars, clergy, and foreign (including non-Muslim) diplomats, the report noted.
On April 15, 2008, the President received the credentials of 13 ambassadors, including a new envoy from the Vatican. The Vatican envoy passed to President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan the greetings of Pope Benedict XVI, who paid tribute to the country's leadership for its care for cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue. He touted the country as a model in its support for and advocacy of tolerance and respect for cultural diversity and cross cultural interaction. President Khalifa reaffirmed the country's determination to foster dialogue among cultures and civilizations and tolerance among various religious groups, the report cited.
In March this year, Higher Education and Scientific Research Minister HE Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak al-Nahyan opened a new Evangelical Church building in Abu Dhabi, which will house 21 congregations in larger accommodations than were previously available to them. The church inauguration coincided with Easter celebrations. Sheikh Nahyan congratulated Christians for Easter and the inauguration of the church, adding that 'the Evangelical Church building in Abu Dhabi reflects once more that the country is tolerant and respects the beliefs of others'.
The report also noted that there are temples shared by Sikhs and Hindus in Dubai, and Buddhists, Hindus, and Sikhs conducts religious ceremonies in private homes without interference.