ABU DHABI — Pope Francis became the first pontiff to visit the Arabian Peninsula, the birthplace of Islam, as he arrived on Sunday in the United Arab Emirates on a trip seeking to improve relations with the Muslim world.
The pope will stay three days in the Emirates, a relatively tolerant oasis that is home to some one million Christians. The oil-rich nation has promoted religious inclusion, complete with a Ministry of Tolerance, in part to burnish its attraction as a cosmopolitan center of glass towers and global commerce.
The country has generally granted religious freedom to its minorities, including the Catholic workers from India, the Philippines and South America who have helped fuel its growth, and the Vatican hopes the pope’s visit will ease the way for the creation of more churches to better serve their growing numbers here.
Those attributes make Abu Dhabi a beacon for the pope to point to in a part of the world where Christians are persecuted and vanishing.