As the United Arab Emirates prepares to host Pope Francis in February, the country’s minister of tolerance said the first-ever papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula will contribute to building bridges at a time of growing nationalism and insularism around the world.

Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan spoke with The Associated Press on Thursday, ahead of Pope Francis’ Feb. 3-5 trip to the UAE, where Islam is the official religion. The pope is scheduled to meet with Sunni Muslim clerics and other religious figures in Abu Dhabi and celebrate Mass with Catholics living in the region.

Foreigners make up the vast majority of the UAE’s population, and Hindus, Christians and Jews are permitted places of worship. Authorities have suppressed political dissent, however, jailing activists and curtailing human rights work.

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