Five things to know about religious freedom in the United Arab Emirates

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Source: The Washington Post

In the first visit by a sitting pope to the Arabian Peninsula, Pope Francis delivered on Tuesday a Mass for an estimated 180,000 people in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates. Hymns shouting “Halleluja boomed from speakers as the crowd at Zayed Sports City Stadium cheered Francis’s arrival in easily the first such display of Christian worship of its kind in the Arabian Peninsula in modern times. In a sermon delivered in Italian with English and Arabic subtitles, the pope spoke about the difficulty of working far from home to his multinational audience. Prayers were later delivered in a host of languages in recognition of the diverse crowd, including French, Tagalog of the Philippines and the Indian language of Konkani. Here are five things to know about religious practice and freedom in the UAE:

The vast majority of the nation’s residents are noncitizens, and they practice various religions

People from all over the world have flocked to the Emirates. drawn by business and labor opportunities in the expansive cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. As a result, of the approximately 9.1 million people who live in the UAE, only 11 percent are citizens. There is no mechanism for naturalization, meaning all citizens are native born. A 2005 census found that of all residents, including noncitizens, 76 percent are Muslim and 9 percent are Christian, while 15 percent are from other religions — mainly Hindus and Buddhists but also Sikhs and Jews.

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