Participants in a roundtable on “expatriates and religious diversity in Qatar” held here yesterday called for efforts to familiarise the expatriate population with the Qatari values and traditions to foster better relations between the two segments.
The meeting that hailed the peaceful co-existence among the diverse communities residing in the country underscored the need for a mechanism to bring them together on a common platform to work for common causes.
This was the first time these communities were brought together in a joint forum by a high-profile body — the Doha International Center for Interfaith Dialogue (DICID).
The Christian Churches Steering Committee in Qatar was the co-organiser of the event.
Asked if there was any proposal to create a permanent mechanism to pursue the dialogue, DICID chairman Dr Ibrahim Al Nuaimi said, “We have provided these communities an opportunity to meet and discuss issues concerning them. It is up to the participants to decide how to go ahead with the dialogue.”
Several proposals were put forward by speakers during the interactive sessions.
One of the issues raised by the Qatari participants and many of the expatriate speakers was the problems created by the ignorance of some sections of the expatriates about the Qatari culture and traditions.
“Expatriate groups can do a lot in raising awareness among their respective communities in this regard and some are already doing it,” said Al Nuaimi.
“Doha is a leading model for peaceful co-existence of diverse religious and ethnic communities. They live and work in harmony and in full co-operation. While living together, we should learn how to respect other peoples’ religious beliefs and symbols,” said Dr Anwar Musaid, a Jordanian professor.
Several expatriate speakers cited their experiences of how they could build excellent relations with the Qatari community as well as other foreign communities here.
Some of them drew attention to the duties and responsibilities of the expatriates while living in a foreign country.
“ Expatriates have the right to preserve their culture and identity as long they don’t collide with the native values and traditions. Being guests in a foreign country, they must abide by the regulations of the host country and respect its values and traditions,” said a speaker.
The need for special workshops and orientation programmes to familiarise expatriates with the Qatari values and traditions was highlighted during the discussions.
Ashraf Abdul Jalal, an expert from the Social Development Center focused on the problems being faced by the expatriate workers, especially the low-income groups due to the misuse of the sponsorship system in the country.
He proposed to create opportunities for regular meetings between expatriate communities and the Qatari officials to discuss the issues and problems. He noted that participation of Qataris in celebrations organized by expatriate communities will help foster mutual relations.
Several participants urged the authorities to prepare brochures, CDs and booklets providing quick information about the Qatari traditions as well as laws and make them available to foreign workers on or before their arrival to the country. One of the speakers called for creating venues where expatriate communities can come together to work for common causes and issues.
Al Nuaimi, in his opening address deplored the new illegal settlements announced by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories.
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