United Arab Emirates: Pax Christi International senior policy advisor says Yemen conflict complicates pope's upcoming trip to Abu Dhabi


from National Catholic Reporter, USA

31/1/19 - Pope Francis is set to become the first Catholic pope to visit the Arabian peninsula with a trip to the United Arab Emirates next month, but some Middle East experts are wishing he would reconsider the journey... Others hope however that Francis will use his Feb. 3-5 visit to the Emirati capital of Abu Dhabi to push its political leaders to change their policies in Yemen.

Fr. Paul Lansu, a senior policy advisor for the global Catholic peace group Pax Christi International, said that in being invited to take the trip by Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, the pope faced a dilemma: "Do you talk or not?"

"In both scenarios, it is a risk," said Lansu. "If you don't go, you let them continue doing what they are doing. If you go, you have the occasion, the opportunity, to talk with them."

"I hope the pope ... can convince the leadership of the Emirates to find another policy concerning Yemen, because this is a disaster what they are doing now together with the Saudis," he said.

Francis will have occasion to make such a pitch on the second day of his visit, when he is scheduled to meet privately with the prince, who has assumed most of his country's executive duties after his father, president Khalifa bin Zayed, suffered a stroke in 2014.

Lansu suggested that the pope will need to be "very firm" with the prince, "criticizing the Emirates in playing a role in stimulating the conflict instead of playing the dimension of diplomacy."

Jesuit Fr. Jan Peters, an Islam scholar and former president of the Netherlands Institute for the Middle East, praised Francis for taking the opportunity. (Fr. Peters is also Treasurer for the Pax Christi International Board.)

"For the pope, for someone in his position, it's his role ... to speak to people he hopes to convince to take another stand," said Peters, who is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the Islamic University in Rotterdam.

"I think the most important thing is that he is trying to convince the leadership in Abu Dhabi to convince their partners in Yemen ... to take really serious part in the peace talks," he said, referring to recent international efforts to have representatives from both sides of the war in Yemen discuss ending the conflict...

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Paul Lansu, Jan Peters, National Catholic Reporter, Pope Francis, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Mohammed Bin Zayed, Yemen