UAE Ambassador to Rwanda urges ESSI students to uphold the legacy of tolerance

By Théophile Niyitegeka
On 21 October 2022 at 09:30

The Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to Rwanda, Hazza Mohammed Falah Kharsan Alqahtani has requested students at the Islamic Secondary School for Sciences (ESSI) to uphold the legacy of tolerance and strive for peaceful coexistence with all members of the society irrespective of their backgrounds.

The envoy made the call on Thursday as he visited the Islamic Cultural Center which is home to ESSI in Nyamirambo Sector, Nyarugenge District of Kigali City.

During his visit to the center, Amb. Alqahtani toured different facilities including a computer lab and science laboratory among others before interacting with students, teachers and taking them through the UAE’s legacy of tolerance, acceptance and coexistence between people of different faiths.

UAE Ambassador also awarded the best performing student from Senior 5 with a laptop at the event.

Amb. Alqahtani echoed the definition of tolerance where it is ‘the virtue that makes peace possible and contributes to the replacement of the culture of war by a culture of peace’.

The latter goes hand in hand with recognizing the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms.

“The practice of tolerance does not mean abandonment or weakening of one’s convictions. It means that one is free to adhere to one’s own convictions and accept that others adhere to theirs,” he said.

As Amb. Alqahtani explained, his country inherits the legacy of tolerance from the founding father of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan who ‘was tolerant and called all people to be tolerant themselves, to accept others and coexist with them regardless of color, religion or beliefs’.

The ambassador highlighted that religious diversity should not spark misunderstandings but rather a bridge uniting people to live in harmony.

He referred to his country’s case where it promotes peace, cultural diversity and coexistence despite the presence of over 200 nationalities living in harmony with every major religious denomination represented.

Despite the fact that Islam dominates in his country, Alqahtani disclosed that other religious denominations are granted freedom they deserve highlighting that such culture should spread across the world.

The diplomat also hinted at the historical visit of Pope Francis (head of the Roman Catholic Church and spiritual leader to 1.2 billion devotees) on February 4th, 2019 to Abu Dhabi, the capital of UAE becoming the first pontiff ever to visit the Arabian Peninsula.

During his momentous visit, Pope Francis met with the Grand Imam Sheikh of al-Azhar Dr. Ahmed al-Tayyib. At the occasion, the two religious leaders signed the ‘Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together’ at the Founder’s Memorial in Abu Dhabi.

The Document of Human Fraternity calls for an end to the use of religion as justification for war, violence and harm and opposes extremism in all forms.

This historic document presents a series of guidelines which denounce violence in the name of religion and urge the adoption of a culture of dialogue and mutual cooperation as a code of conduct and reciprocal understanding.

The Abrahamic House of Fraternity

Amb. Alqahtani said that the Abrahamic religions including; Judaism, Christianity and Islam are united by the belief in one God and all three share in a history connected to the patriarch Abraham.

He stressed the need to promote dialogue and shared his country’s efforts to support the cause.

Amb. Alqahtani revealed that UAE has proposed a dedicated space for inter-faith dialogue.

The UAE unveiled plans for the Abrahamic House of Fraternity on September 20th 2019 in New York alongside the UN General Assembly.

“The Abrahamic Family House will be an interfaith complex currently in development in Abu Dhabi, a representation of the Document of Human Fraternity which will feature a church, a mosque, a synagogue and a secular welcome center on one shared site. Currently, in development, the project’s anticipated completion date has been set for this year,” he said.

Amb. Alqahtani further revealed that the Abrahamic House of Fraternity will feature each of the three houses of faith namely; a mosque, a church and a synagogue, which will stand at the same height to symbolize equality. The design will highlight the often overlooked similarities between the three faiths and their corresponding architectural traditions.

It will act as a place for religious worship as well as a space for exhibitions, programs, conferences and inter-faith dialogue initiatives.

Abdellatif Aouid, the Director General of the Islamic Cultural Center thanked Amb. Alqahtani for the visit and commended UAE for the support extended to the center.

He highlighted that the Islamic Cultural Center is a fruit of collaboration between Libya, UAE and the Government of Rwanda adding that the ESSI also promotes values of tolerance where it recruits teachers and enrolls students without any kind of discrimination.

Students also commended the envoy for delivering an inspiring talk and pledged to be characterized by tolerance in daily lives.

Amb. Alqahtani urged ESSI students to uphold the legacy of tolerance.
Amb. Alqahtani toured different facilities of the center.
Amb. Alqahtani (right) with the Director General of the Islamic Cultural Center in Nyamirambo.
Amb. Alqahtani receiving a gift from the Director General of the Islamic Cultural Center in Nyamirambo.
Amb. Alqahtani shared his country's legacy of tolerance with ESSI students and teachers.
A computer lab is among visited facilities.
Amb. Alqahtani also witnessed experiments conducted by ESSI students in their science laboratory.
Amb. Alqahtani arriving at the Islamic Cultural Center.
Amb. Alqahtani handing over a laptop to the best performing student.
ESSI offers education to boys and girls.