For the local migrant community, the pontiff's visit constitutes "encouragement and a recognition" of their value. A "multinational and multicultural" Church of people is "united under the same sky". There is a "beautiful climate" in the Emirates. Muslim media have been paying close attention to the visit, which will boost interfaith dialogue.
Abu Dhabi (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis’s visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a country where most migrant workers are Catholic from different Asian countries, is an "encouragement and a recognition of their existence and value,” this according to Paul Hinder, Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia (United Arab Emirates, Oman and Yemen).
Speaking to AsiaNews on the eve of the first papal trip to a Gulf country, the prelate notes that "His presence shows the unity among us, in spite of tensions and differences that characterise a multinational and multicultural Church, which is united under the same sky."
"It is a community of active members. They are not 'slaves' or second-class at all, but Christians who actively take part in the life of society and the local Church, "said Mgr Hinder amid phone calls, appointments, and scores of more things to iron out.
"We are a lively migrant reality. With this visit, this is the message we want to send to the world’s Catholic community, as well as to governments and institutions: look at migrants as an active reality."
"The pope's presence is a source of encouragement also for those among us who work hard but are less well-off.” For the vicar to Arabia, “Francis cares about these people. he is also coming for them to encourage them ... We shall see what he’ll say."
The pontiff will be in Abu Dhabi from 3 to 5 February for an international interfaith meeting on Human Brotherhood. For the first time, a Roman pontiff will travel to the Arabian Peninsula at the invitation of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and the local Catholic Church.
The Emirates are among the few countries in the Middle East that can boast of a certain stability. Still, it also has some dark spots, such as domestic repression and its involvement in the Yemen War.
However, as UAE Tolerance Minister Sheikh Nahyan Ben Mubarak Al Nahyan pointed out, the Pope is considered "a builder of bridges", a description that is also found in the visit’s preparatory message, together with the Franciscan prayer “make me an instrument of your peace".
"The pontiff,” noted Mgr Hinder, “is not afraid to cross borders and get closer to others, looking first at the human being, not stopping at ideology, faith or ethnicity. This is the most important thing." In the Emirates one can breathe "a beautiful climate".
"I expected it," he said, speaking about the visit. It is “long overdue. Already a year ago there was talk about it.” Many Christians and Muslims were saying, "let's hope he comes". Now "It is also nice to see all this attention, even in the Muslim media.”
“The Pope's visit should have a positive effect on the area. Francis is well liked by Muslims and his presence in the Emirates is a source of pride.” The visit “will have significant influence on interfaith dialogue and many people hope that it will somehow help end some of the region’s bloody conflicts."
Francis speaks the language of peace, which can have some positive effects on ongoing crises in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen and the broader Middle East. “In the Emirates, he could be an example for others."
For the prelate, "What the Pope will bring to the Arabian Peninsula will bear fruit for us as a Church, in relation to Muslims as well as religious freedom."
This message will be also heard by those countries in the region where, even today, religious worship is subject to severe restrictions.