05/16/2022, 11.26
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
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Bishop Hinder: Khalifa bin Zayed's legacy of a 'tolerant' development of the Emirates

A country in mourning for 40 days bid its final farewell to the 73-year-old president, who has been ill for some time. The nation's leadership already long in the hands of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed. Former Vicar of Arabia: there is an atmosphere of "respect and tribute" to the person. For new leadership, the value of tolerance that embraces religions and ethnicities. 

Abu Dhabi (AsiaNews) - In recent years, Shikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan "had rarely appeared in public," leading a "very withdrawn" life, and while he nominally retained the office of president and emir of Abu Dhabi, it is other authorities who have led the nation. However, on the political level, "the vision of opening up the country" and continuation of "the forefather's project" [founder Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan] with a view to development and growth should be emphasized.

This is how Msgr. Paul Hinder, former apostolic vicar of southern Arabia (UAE, Oman and Yemen) remembers the president of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) who passed away in recent days  to AsiaNews. "The whole country," the prelate continues, "is in mourning, even today offices and schools are closed, flags fly at half-mast, there is an atmosphere of respect and tribute to the person, even though people knew he was not well.

Long ill, Shikh Khalifa died May 13 at the age of 73. He was born Sept. 7, 1948, the eldest son of Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Emir of Abu Dhabi and president of the Emirates from 1971, the year of independence from the United Kingdom, until his death in 2004. The role has far-reaching ceremonial value and, according to tradition, is awarded to the Emir of Abu Dhabi, the wealthiest of the seven that make up the Gulf nation.

In all likelihood the post of president is expected to be held by his brother, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (Mbz), already one of the most powerful regional and world leaders; he is an expression of the new Arab and Gulf ruling class, which finds its counterpart in Mohammad bin Salman (Mbs) in Saudi Arabia. Instead, the post of prime minister is entrusted to the Emir of Dubai whose position is now held by Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, a somewhat controversial figure and accused of kidnapping his daughter. 

The Emirates will observe a 40-day period of mourning, while public buildings have been closed for three. The funeral was held on May 14 under the leadership of Abu Dhabi's crown prince, while a military picket escorted the body inside the mosque for prayer and then led him to the burial site. Worshippers gathered around the grave as the crown prince shoveled dirt into his half-brother's grave with his hands. 

The nation bid farewell to its late leader, but its gaze has long since turned to the future as the former vicar apostolic confirms.  Msgr. Hinder recounts, "The crown prince, is an energetic person, with a clear vision as I could see in the various meetings, especially those in preparation for Pope Francis' visit in 2019 and the signing of the document on brotherhood, which he strongly supported."

While having to take into account the sensitivities of citizens, the prelate continued, the new leadership continues "on the path of openness and development," of encounter and dialogue. He notes that the "main aspect is the importance that is given to tolerance, an element that is added to the economic sphere. A spirit of tolerance that embraces all religions and ethnicities and one of the cornerstones on which the future of the Emirates rests." 

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