A very thoughtful and generous opinion piece about the cordial relationship in UAE between Muslims and Christians... and a visit to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem!
Late on Wednesday night, Christmas Eve, I received an unexpected text message from an old friend. “My warmest greetings from the Church of the Nativity, and Happy Christmas,” it read.For those unaware of the exact location of the church, it is in Bethlehem, on the Palestinian West Bank, on the reputed site of the birthplace of Jesus. It’s the first time in my life I have received Christmas greetings from Bethlehem, and, indeed, the first time, as far as I am aware, that any friend of mine has actually celebrated Christmas there.
It was a remarkable message in several ways. My friend is a Palestinian by birth, although now an Emirati citizen, and is a Muslim. And he was in Bethlehem not on his own, but as a member of the UAE Government delegation led by the Foreign Minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, that had travelled there both to meet the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, to express support for the reviving of the Arab Peace Initiative, and also to take part in the festivities marking the birth of a man who not only founded the Christian Church but who is also honoured and revered throughout the Muslim world as one of the greatest of the prophets.