United Arab Emirates World Interfaith Harmony Day: Peace at Home Builds Peace in the World

Contributed By By Jeannette Barney, Church News contributor

  • DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Jeffrey H. Singer, Abu Dhabi Stake president, and his wife, Sandra Singer, shared how simple gospel principles including daily family prayer and scripture study strengthen their family. They spoke at the first World Interfaith Harmony Day, held in the United Arab Emirates on February 3, 2016.

Article Highlights

  • At the conference, Latter-day Saints shared their beliefs regarding the family.
  • Many Latter-day Saints were grateful to be with those who also share a common belief in the family.

“If we wish to move toward a future of peace, the journey must begin in the early lives of the world’s boys and girls—in their homes and families.” —H. H. Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, United Arab Emirates minister of culture, youth, and community development

More than 250 delegates gathered in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on February 3 for the first World Interfaith Harmony Day, held as part of United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week. Latter-day Saints living in the United Arab Emirates participated in the conference, in which speakers addressed the topic “Peace at Home Builds Peace in the World.”

Under the patronage of H. H. Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, United Arab Emirates minister of culture, youth, and community development, the conference included presentations by local and international leaders of the faiths of Islam, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Zoroastrian, Coptic, Catholic, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The event concluded with a gala dinner and cultural performance. H. H. Sheikh Nahyan urged delegates to act on the messages inspired by the conference: “If we wish to move toward a future of peace, the journey must begin in the early lives of the world’s boys and girls—in their homes and families.”

Jeffrey H. Singer, Abu Dhabi Stake president, said, “We are grateful that the United Arab Emirates allows and encourages freedom of worship. This was a historic conference. As Elder L. Tom Perry said, ‘It is around marriage and family where we will find our greatest commonality with the rest of the world.’ This was evident as leaders from many faiths expressed a sincere desire to build the family and create peace in the home.”

In his presentation, President Singer invited his wife, Sandra Singer, to join him at the lectern. Together they shared how the simple gospel principles of daily family prayer and scripture study, weekly family home evenings, family councils, and family history work strengthen their family.

Noting the impact this message had on those attending the conference, Curtis Kofoed, a member of the Abu Dhabi 2nd Ward, said, “After President Singer spoke, there were several who commented to me that they were impressed by his message and the simple ways in which families can be strengthened. One woman present in the conference commented to us, ‘Why had I never heard of these simple ways to raise my children?’”

Franco Vigliotti, a member of the Sharjah Ward, added, “The message was such a wonderful window on our faith and on the importance of our youth. I was reminded once again how blessed we are to have the gospel and the promise of eternal families.”

“It was a great platform for us to reveal to others who we are,” said Nishantha Dias, also a member of the Sharjah Ward. “It touched people’s hearts.”

Other members of the Church shared their experience at the conference. Michelle Kofoed, from the Abu Dhabi 2nd Ward, said she was honored to attend the conference to witness harmony among major religions of the world. “It was a pleasure to meet and develop friendships with others who share a common belief in the family,” she said. “We were strengthened to know that building a society of peaceful families is a core priority to people of all faiths around the world.”

“The interfaith conference was one of the most significant things I’ve done here in the Middle East,” said Steve Palsky of the Abu Dhabi 1st Ward. “It was such a pleasure getting to know these religious leaders and to share our life experiences with each other. We have so much in common.”

“It was uplifting to be among people from so many walks of life who cherish similar values,” said Kym Merrill, also a member of the Abu Dhabi 1st Ward. “I feel that just by being in their presence I was uplifted and reminded about how we are all children of a loving Father in Heaven.”

From left are Zakia Bekdouche, H. Sule Albayrak, Geethanjali Kanagaratnam, Alagan Kanagaratnam, Curtis Kofoed, and Michelle Kofoed at the first World Interfaith Harmony Day, held in the United Arab Emirates on February 3, 2016.

Curtis Kofoed greets Surender Singh Kandhari, chairman of Sikh Guru Nanak Darbar Gurudwara, United Arab Emirates, at the first World Interfaith Harmony Day, held on February 3, 2016.

Jeffrey H. Singer, Abu Dhabi Stake president, and his wife, Sandra Singer, shared how simple gospel principles including daily family prayer and scripture study strengthen their family. They spoke at the first World Interfaith Harmony Day, held in the United Arab Emirates on February 3, 2016.

H. H. Sheikh Nahyan presents plaques of appreciation to presenters, moderators, and organizers of the first World Interfaith Harmony Day, held in the United Arab Emirates on February 3, 2016.

Alexandra Singer of Dubai and Kym Merrill of Abu Dhabi participate in the first World Interfaith Harmony Day on February 3, 2016, held as part of United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week.

Jeffrey H. Singer, Abu Dhabi Stake president, presents a message at the first World Interfaith Harmony Day on February 3, 2016.