TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Commander in Chief of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Armed Forces, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, has sent a congratulatory message to Pope Francis, Head of the Catholic Church, on the occasion of Christmas, expressing best wishes for peace and tolerance around the world.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, sent similar congratulatory messages to Pope Francis.
On Christmas Eve, thousands of Christian expats trooped to various churches - from St. Joseph's Cath-olic Church, Abu Dhabi, to St. Mary's Catholic Church, Dubai; St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, Jebel Ali; St. Michael's Catholic Church in Sharjah and other churches across the country.
Mass services are held in various languages, including Arabic, English, Filipino, French, Polish, Italian, Spanish, Urdu, Hindi, Sinhalese, Malayalam, Konkani, Sri Lankan, Tami, Korean and African.This is a testament that Christmas in the UAE is a symbol of tolerance. It is also a time of compassion, giving, sharing and connecting with family and friends.
Christmas is made even more special in the UAE as the multi-cultural country is united in celebrating a festival with all its spirituality and gaiety. Roughly 10 per cent or one million of the country's population are Christians, with majority being Catholics from the Philippines, India and African and Arab nations.