HE Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Opens the Conference on Religious Diplomacy

27 October, 2022

The Religious Diplomacy: International Challenges and Opportunities Conference, was organised by Dr Maïa-Oumeïma Hamrouni, Assistant Professor of Law Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi in collaboration with the Anwar Gargash Diplomatic Academy.

The conference welcomed a line-up of global foreign affairs experts as well as diplomats and it discussed the role of religious diplomacy in spreading peace, promoting tolerance, and influencing foreign state policies.

In the presence of His Excellency Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, UAE Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence, Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi and the Anwar Gargash Diplomatic Academy (AGDA), held a conference titled ‘Religious Diplomacy: International Challenges and Opportunities’. The conference took place at Zayed Theatre, Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi Campus.

The conference welcomed a line-up of academics, clerics, diplomats and foreign affairs experts from around the world to discuss the importance of religious diplomacy and interfaith dialogue as a diplomatic tool for spreading peace, promoting tolerance, and influencing foreign state policies. The event witnessed representations of several faiths, including Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Hinduism.

The unique forum focused on three interconnected aspects of religious diplomacy, namely its role in defusing conflict by identifying the actors involved in the promotion of interreligious dialogue and interculturality. It also sheds light on religious diplomacy as a more impactful alternative to classical diplomacy in defining methods of action and objectives, as well as its role as a powerful force for shaping foreign policies.

During the opening session, His Excellency Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, the minister for tolerance and coexistence, said: “In the United Arab Emirates, we have always strived to serve as a catalyst for peace, tolerance, understanding, and stability in the world. We are aware of the considerable common ground among tenets of different faiths. We believe that uniting people of differing faiths, finding common ground among those who come from different cultural traditions, harnessing the core values that are common to all religions – these principles should lead people everywhere to work together for a world of mutual understanding, a world of tolerance, empathy, and justice – a world without extremism, violence, and hate – a world of peace, prosperity, safety, and a better future for all human beings.”

“Speakers, guests, and students from all backgrounds and walks of life gathered to lead a globally important discussion around achieving global peace and promoting tolerance. At AGDA, our mission is to ensure that the UAE is reinforced with well-connected diplomacy leaders and foreign policymakers who are representative of the UAE’s vision for coexistence, tolerance, and innovation on a global level. With that, we are continuously involved in dialogues around emerging modern diplomatic methods, such as religious diplomacy, to promote a culture of inclusivity and harmony, as well as build bridges and strengthen relations between the UAE and the international community,” said HE Nickolay Mladenov, Director General ai. of AGDA.

“I would like to thank the Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi for their efforts in bringing these great minds together to discuss and advance the future of diplomacy. It has been an honour to be part of such an important discussion that is set to bring about hope for a better future and be a changing cultural point for the region.” Mladenov added.

Professor Silvia Serrano, Vice-Chancellor Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi, said: “The conference aligns with our motto “A bridge between civilizations” as a culturally diverse university, Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi aims to contribute to the development of society as well as promote dialogue between cultures and civilisations. We are keen to shape the future of education and expand the student’s intellectual and cognitive horizons based on current trends by boosting research-based education.”

Serrano continued: “We are proud to organise such a significant conference dedicated to religious diplomacy in the United Arab Emirates where the world of tomorrow is being built and to bring together participants, foreign affairs experts, diplomats, and representatives of various faiths from all over the world. I would like to thank our key partner for this conference, Anwar Gargash Diplomatic Academy for their contributions and I would like to thank all the eminent speakers and participants, for making the event a tremendous success.”

The conference discussed the role of religious diplomacy in facilitating dialogue when exchanges seem impossible, as it can promote tolerance when the toughest positions seem stagnant. The speakers discussed how the discourse conveyed by religious envoys can be better understood and accepted by governments because it appears distant from political intrigues and is adorned with wisdom or spirituality.

On February 4, 2021, the International Day of Human Fraternity was celebrated for the first time following its establishment by the United Nations General Assembly on December 21, 2020. It complements the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, also known as the Abu Dhabi declaration, which was signed by Pope Francis of the Catholic Church and Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, in Abu Dhabi, UAE, commending efforts by all religious leaders to promote interreligious and intercultural dialogue.