12/01/2019 UAE (International Christian Concern) – Two expatriate Christians living in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have received the nation’s Pioneers Award, according to Gulf news sites. The government celebrates this award annually, but given that the timing also corresponds to the declared “Year of Tolerance”, the UAE decided to highlight the work of two expatriate Christian leaders.
The first award recipient is Saji Cheriyan, a Christian Indian businessman living in the UAE. He received the award after being dubbed an ambassador of peace for gifting a mosque to Muslim workers in Furjairah. The second award recipient is the Anglican priest Rev. Andrew Thompson, who published a book this past February titled Celebrating Tolerance: Religious Diversity in the United Arab Emirates.
The UAE has spent multiple resources celebrating 2019 as the year of tolerance. The celebration was initiated through the historic papal visit in February, the first time a pope had set foot in the Gulf. Committees were afterwards established for the promotion of interfaith dialogue and diversity. Christianity is generally accepted in the UAE in the context of expatriates, who provide a significant source of economic benefit to the country and make up most of the Christian community.
However, citizens are given no choice regarding their own religious conscience. They are born Muslim, conversion is discouraged. Christians sharing the Gospel with Muslims do so at great risk.