A journalistic bird's eye view on what happened in the UAE

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A journalistic bird's eye view on what happened in the UAE

By Fr. Dr. Rif'at Bader

The UAE brethren have excelled in organizing the "Global Conference of Human Fraternity" and in welcoming Pope Francis on his first visit to the Arabian Peninsula. We, in Jordan, are familiar with the painstaking effort exerted to receive His Holiness the Pope, as we have gone through this experience successfully four times in fifty years.

I am addressing this issue today neither as a clergyman who participated in the massive Mass nor as an analyst of one of the most important documents shared between Muslims and Christians, namely the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together signed by His Holiness Pope Francis and Sheikh Al-Azhar Dr. Ahmad Al-Tayeb. I, rather, intend to address the media coverage that handles this major event.

A total of 700 journalists have been got the approval to cover the visit, which is of course a big number. Some of them represented local, Arab and international media outlets, including 70 journalists who represented the world's largest media agencies as they boarded the papal plane, among whom was a journalist who represented the UAE News Agency (WAM) and other local newspapers. Thus, over the course of days of assiduous work, the fraternal country was able to obtain a leading coverage of the event.

Arab media outlets were impressively present, especially through the major satellite channels installed in the Dubai Media City. This city could have been built in Jordan. I recall years ago that this issue was studied well, but I am not sure why we could not get the job done.

The important point is that the presence of such a large number of Arab and foreign media outlets has brought to the events a qualitative and numerical impetus. Attention focused on the positive aspects of the Papal visit, on the joint Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, and on the Holy Mass held in the UAE for the first time in the open air. Some 150,000 people were expected to attend the Mass, yet some 180,000 people were present in an atmosphere of prayer and holiness that prevailed during the Mass.
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The global media focused, as we did, in our intensive reactions on the fact that the UAE and the Vatican established diplomatic relations in 2007 characterized by friendship as well as on the fact that the Pope and the Vatican are close to Arab issues. There are no indigenous Christians in the UAE, as is the case in the Middle East, but the UAE managed to preserve religious freedom or freedom of worship for all expatriates of different ethnicities, nationalities and religions. Consequently, the UAE established houses of worship, which is why this major event that took place in the Year of Tolerance-- in the country of the Ministry of Tolerance, in the World Interfaith Harmony Week--was distinguished and made the fraternal UAE further reputed.

Light was also shed on having the Islamic-Christian relations transcending from the stage of abstraction and verbal impressions to the stage of action and cooperation as clearly mentioned in the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together. Furthermore, huge dialogue centers have emerged in recent years in various Arab countries. It is due time to launch a coordination mechanism among the various centers and initiatives so that there will be consistency in views and impressions that would give hope to the generations to come. Statements were issued in the past years that bore the name of the capitals in which they were signed. We do not want this Abu Dhabi document to become something of the past. We want every institution that participated in this event to immediately monitor the positive educational and humanitarian impressions and apply them on the round. Undoubtedly, the media outlets shoulder the major responsibility in this regard.

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