The Catholic Church's Contributions to Christian-Muslim Dialogue

February 21, 2019

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is home to 9 million people of approximately 200 nationalities. Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan is the UAE’s first minister of tolerance, a role created in 2017 to reach out to people of different backgrounds and to ensure that these different groups feel safe and respected within the country. Pope Francis visited the UAE from February 3 to February 5 - the first visit of a pope to the Arabian Peninsula. A letter from Bishop Paul Hinder, head of the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia, announcing the trip expressed hopes it would contribute to Muslim-Christian dialogue and mutual understanding in the Middle East. During the visit, Pope Francis met with Sunni Muslim clerics and other religious figures at an interfaith meeting. He has previously visited Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Bangladesh, Azerbaijan, and the Palestinian Territories, using these trips to call for interreligious dialogue and to condemn violence in the name of God. After his visit to the UAE, the Pope released “A Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together,” which recognizes the dignity of all human beings and affirms that good relations between the East and West are necessary to protect the religious and civil rights of citizens. The Catholic Church and al-Azhar University both pledged to study and circulate the document to religious and political leaders regionally and internationally. Although Christians may worship in churches in the UAE and Kuwait, neighboring Saudi Arabia bans the practice of religions besides Islam, and freedom of religion varies drastically throughout the region.

This week the Berkley Forum asks: How have interfaith discussions between Catholic and Muslim communities changed in the twenty-first century, and how could they evolve in the future? What impact do papal visits have on interreligious dialogue? What roles do Catholics as individuals and the Catholic Church as an institution play in dialogue and peacemaking in regions of conflict?

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