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    UAE Government Claims Commitment to Tolerance after Historic Pope Visit

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    UAE continues to centre its domestic and foreign policy around the concept of tolerance after the joint statement signed by Pope Francis of the Catholic Church and Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar back in February.

    Tolerance became the central theme of the five-km 'Run for Tolerance' marathon in Abu Dhabi on Friday. The event, organized by the Abu Dhabi Municipality, aimed to unite workers from faraway places, with hundreds of blue-collar workers of different nationalities taking part.

    The marathon became the latest in a series of political and diplomatic events promoting tolerance since the “Declaration on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” was signed after the meeting between Pope Francis, Head of the Catholic Church, Dr. Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar, and representatives of 12 religions in Abu Dhabi in February. The UAE also hosted a “Forum for Building Social Partnerships on Tolerance,” where the country’s Ministry of Tolerance presented a plan that includes over 20 related projects and initiatives. In addition, the UAE announced the first stage of an initiative to provide medical caravans and food baskets to refugees in Nigeria.

    Other tolerance-centred activities include the launch of the “News Agencies Tolerance Charter,” with the aim of promoting media content related to by the Emirates News Agency, WAM and 29 international news agencies as well as the launch of the “11th Youth of Humanitarian Tolerance Forum” to treat children, women and the elderly in Kasur.

    The UAE government’s policy initiatives come amid numerous accusations of intolerance from international human rights organisations. In February, UN Special Rapporteurs urged the United Arab Emirates to free terminally ill prisoner, Alia Abdulnoor, who is suffering from breast cancer. She had been arrested in July 2015. According to the report on the website of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the arrest and charges came after Abdulnoor helped raise funds for needy Syrian families in the UAE and war-affected women and children in Syria. Abdulnoor, who was connected with some names accused of terrorism in the UAE,  has been officially charged with financing terrorism.

    READ MORE: Pope Francis' Historic First Visit to the UAE: Day 2 (VIDEO)

    In 2013 the UAE hit out at the previous US administration's criticism of human rights practices in the country. Abdul Raheem Al-Awadhi, Assistant Foreign Minister for Legal Affairs at the time, said that Washington’s report on the matter provided an unbalanced picture of the human rights situation in the UAE and failed to “give adequate recognition to the significant progress that has been made to promote and protect human rights in the country”.

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