The UAE is walking the talk when it comes to spreading the culture of tolerance by implementing policies on the ground and celebrating the virtue in all spheres of action, a senior Hindu priest has said.
Speaking to Khaleej Times on the UAE’s decision to celebrate 2019 as the Year of Tolerance, Swami Brahmavihari, senior priest of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, said: “It is truly inspiring, not just locally, but globally.
“While almost every country professes it, the UAE has wisely gone out of the grid and created ministries and policies (for tolerance). To ‘mean what they say, and do what they believe’ speaks volumes for the sincerity of the UAE leadership.
Here, tolerance is no longer a beautiful word or a great value, it is seen implemented through actions, emotions and celebrations.
“While many around the world speak of universal values and harmony, the UAE’s leadership has given tangible form to these values with decisive action, steadfast commitment and a global vision for a better future. And now giving the ‘Value of Tolerance’ national importance all year round, is a path breaking inspiration for countries and leaders to follow,” Swami added.
As someone who has personally overseen his faith’s activities in the Middle East and currently leading the development of the BAPS Hindu Mandir in Abu Dhabi, Swami says he has seen and experienced first hand “love, warmth and acceptance” in the UAE “right from the Presidential Palace and Royal Majlises to the government offices and common streets.
The priest said with the generous gift of land from His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to build the first traditional stone temple and cultural complex in Abu Dhabi, the world welcomed the UAE’s commitment to increasing tolerance, interfaith dialogue, collective coexistence and global harmony.
“I believe that the worth of a nation cannot be measured by the size of the country, but the quality and character of its people. The open-hearted friendliness in the UAE has its roots in the vision of its founding father, late Sheikh Zayed. His vision of tolerance is still very much alive today – indeed it has become the very bedrock of a diverse, tolerant and vibrant society, of over 200 nationalities.
“Sheikh Zayed is known for teaching ‘to treat every person, no matter what his creed or race, as a special soul is a mark of Islam’. Our spiritual guru His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj also revealed: ‘Religion is that which spreads love for one another’. We see these joint values in action everyday as we work to contribute to the UAE’s happiness and progress.”
True to the Hindu values of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ (The whole world is a family), Swami said: “It is our hope that we, the Hindu community, can join together to contribute to the UAE’s mission of tolerance by making a unique spiritual complex in Abu Dhabi which will become a hub of cultural exchange and mutual understanding – a landmark which will forever reflect this nation’s dedication to the human ideals of tolerance and harmony.
“We believe it is an intrinsic part of spirituality to strive not just to attain heaven beyond earth but to create a bit of heaven on earth, to bring heavenly happiness and joy to Earth as well. That is why we are greatly encouraged to see countries around the world work towards inculcating the values of harmony and tolerance,” he added.
“The Hindu community has witnessed the UAE’s strides towards greater harmony since its earliest days. And over the years, we have been able to practice and share our faith and customs.”
Commenting on the upcoming visit of Pope Francis and the coinciding Interfaith Conference, Swami Brahmavihari said it is a great beginning to a year of both introspection and action.
“Apart from creating understanding and friendship, when religious heads meet each other it lessens bitterness between the followers of the two faiths and helps generate harmony. A single meeting, a simple dialogue can positively influence the minds of millions.It creates understanding, and generates genuine respect..Unity in diversity is the lesson of life. Flourishing together is the secret of peace.”