Girl delivers letter to Pope on a wing and a prayer

Girl delivers letter to Pope on a wing and a prayer

Girl delivers letter to Pope on a wing and a prayer

All in all, it is estimated there are about 1 million Catholics in the UAE today, a lot of them from the Philippines and from India, but also from African countries, the Middle East, and Europe.

Devin Kenney, a researcher on the UAE for Amnesty International, confirms the lack of critical voices in the kingdom.

"The UAE has been, and will continue to be, a beacon of tolerance, moderation and coexistence".

Of the over 9 million people living in the UAE, only around 1 million are Emirati; all the others are drawn to the country in rapid economic expansion to find employment in all sectors, from white-collar office jobs to construction work and domestic labour. The majority are workers from the Philippines and India. He recalled the life of St. Anthony the Great, who was accompanied by Christ amid his torments, saying: "The Lord is close".

Pope Francis, who made history when he touched down in Abu Dhabi on Sunday night, said he came "as a brother, in order to write a page of dialogue together, and to travel paths of peace together".

The state's tolerance-themed project, however, has its limits.

He also invoked the recent sexual abuses that have been taking place in the Catholic Church in recent years.

While it is unknown whether Francis discussed the topic with the Crown Prince during their private meeting, the Pope did issue a public plea for peace in Yemen from the Vatican on Sunday, just an hour before his departure for Abu Dhabi.

A permit is required to hold a Quran memorisation circle or lecture, collect donations or distribute books or audio in mosques. "These tragic realities are the effect of a deviation from religious teachings".

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Moreover, all imams receive their salaries from the government and - with the exception of the most senior imams - must follow official weekly guidance on the content of Friday sermons.

According to the group, UAE authorities have targeted critics, political dissidents and human rights activists with arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances. At least 10,000 people have been killed, though rights groups say the real number could be closer to 50,000.

The Crown Prince Zayed's long-time antipathy towards Islamic activism and the Muslim Brotherhood formally became law with the UAE's new "terrorism law" in 2014.

"We resolutely declare that religions must never incite war, hateful attitudes, hostility and extremism, nor must they incite violence or the shedding of blood", the document read.

This has led to large-scale human rights abuses with Human Rights Watch warning that the law would be used to prosecute people exclusively for exercising their rights to free speech, association, or assembly. But like its neighbours, the UAE does not allow dissent or criticism of its leadership.

It included groups that have not been designated as terrorist groups by either the United States or Europe, such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim advocacy and civil rights group in the U.S., as well as Islamic Relief Worldwide, a UK-based humanitarian aid organisation with operations around the world.

Meanwhile, a UAE and Saudi blockade of the country has driven millions to the brink of starvation.

The pope was to give his address a day after calling for an end to wars in the troubled Middle East, including in Yemen and Syria.

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