By Francesca Merlo
Dr Michael Bates “can’t believe” that so much has happened in the past year since Pope Francis visited the UAE. While speaking to Vatican Radio’s Sr Bernadette Reis, he explains that a delegation from the US embassy visited the students of Cleveland’s Notre Dame School. They watched a film on the Pope’s visit and “broke bread between our students and Emirati students outside Cleveland”, he says. Dr Bates explains that he was later contacted by the embassy, who asked him to “bring students from Cleveland, here to Abu Dhabi, for this occasion”.
Abu Dhabi is currently hosting an event to mark the one year anniversary since Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar signed the Document on Human Fraternity.
Dr Bates explains that he has experienced a strong “sense of faith and inspiration” to peace-making since his arrival in Abu Dhabi. Everywhere he has felt “the atmosphere of love and care”, and the desire to “recognize that we need not spend all our resources to enforce hate and to enforce war”. All this, he says, shows that “we can build peace with one another just by simply engaging one another and love”.
The Ministry of Education in Abu Dhabi in the UAE “is implementing the Human Fraternity Document in grades seven through to twelve”. So, far, Dr Bates says that back home they have implemented it in their grade 12, and “are looking forward to expanding that”.
The 11 students that travelled with him to Abu Dhabi “are in awe”, he says. Not just “of the ability to travel 7000 miles to be here”, nor of the “wonder of what this place is”. Dr Bates says they are in awe about what it has meant to them to “meet other students”.
They “broke barriers so quickly”, he says, discussing their lives, their homework apps and their school lunches. Dr Bates says that the children were especially “humbled” when they learned that the children attending one of the school they visited learn “three languages: English, Arabic and Chinese”. They exchanged contacts, he says, and “excitingly”, promised to stay in contact.