United Arab Emirates Restores Christian Life

Construction at the future site of the Abrahamic Family House in Abu Dhabi, in June 2021. Source: Religious News Service

Following the normalization of the relations between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel last year, there has been a flourishing of new life among Christian and other faith communities within the UAE.

State funded projects like the city of Ahu Dhabi’s Abrahamic Family House complex broke ground last year and will include a synagogue, mosque, and church. This will mark the construction of the first official Jewish synagogue in the country.

Despite the attention being given to the normalization of relations between Jews and Muslims, the restoration of Christian life in the Persian gulf is being met by Christians around with great fanfare as a return of the faith to the land of Christ’s birth. Many of the Christian communities on the Arabian peninsula for years are small and Christian groups in the West have been concerned about their possible extinction.

Currently, many denominations have pre-existent congregations that cater to tourists and overseas workers residing in the country on business. According to Noura Al Kaabi, the UAE’s minister of culture and youth, the UAE is seeking to promote “the values of tolerance, coexistence, peace and harmony both at home and internationally.”

In 2019, the UAE declared 2019 the Year of Tolerance during which it hosted an apostolic visit from Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar resulting in the signing of the Document on Human Fraternity, a cooperative agreement designed to foster interfaith understanding and tolerance. 

Promoted in the West as an alternative to the Islamic extremism of groups such as ISIS, the UAE’s decision to help restore Christian life with state funding is being praised by other gulf states as an exemplar of Islamic commitments to peace and love.

Additionally in a show of goodwill, the UAE funded the restoration of two historic churches in Mosul in 2019, along with the iconic Al-Nouri Mosque.

Al Kaabi explained, “We want to send out a clear message that the mayhem spread by extremist ideologies can be undone, and divisive forces can be countered…Through nurturing and channeling stronger forces of coexistence and harmony, and culture has a prominent role to play in this.”

Source: Religious News Service