Abu Dhabi: In a testament to the UAE’s multicultural tolerance, the region’s largest Anglican church is currently being built in Abu Dhabi, with the land for the church donated by President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Currently under construction in Musaffah, the All Saints Anglican Church will be able to accommodate over 4,000 worshippers when complete. The church is currently looking to raise Dh8 million to reach its target of Dh20 million, which is the total cost of the church, and it expects to receive its final funding by December.
“At a time when walls are being erected between different faith communities in the world, the UAE continues their tradition of welcoming people of different faiths as a genuine and mature expression of their Islamic hospitality,” said Reverend Andy Thompson, senior chaplain in charge of Anglican churches in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.
“The construction of the new church started back in 2014. The land was generously given by the President of the UAE several years earlier … This was a reflection of the trust the ruling family have in the Anglican church for their long tradition of being an umbrella for many expatriate Christian groups,” he added.
Rev Thompson said the new church would provide much-needed new space for Christian worshippers in the capital, as existing churches were finding it hard to accommodate the high number of worshippers.
“My understanding is that the churches in Mussafah will continue to be serving the future Christian community who live on the island and that the provision of churches off the island is in response to the expansion of Abu Dhabi mainland urban development.
“The Mussafah church will provide a much-needed spiritual home for several congregations,” he added.
Rev Thompson also said the church would be welcoming blue-collar workers living in the labour housing clusters in Musaffah.
“The new church will be located directly opposite one of the big government-constructed labour accommodation compounds. We are hoping to be creative in finding ways of providing community support for blue-collar workers,” he explained.
Rev Thompson, who also serves as the chaplain of St Andrews Church in Abu Dhabi, said the new church would follow the same example of St Andrews in welcoming other Christian denominations to come and carry out their worship services.
“There are over 50 groups who worship at St Andrew’s Church and we also host the Greek Orthodox, Egyptian Coptic Orthodox and the Marthoma churches who are allowed by the Anglican church to share their land.
“Other groups include the Korean Methodist Church, the Church of Pakistan, a Chinese Evangelical group and several Indian and Filipino Pentecostal groups,” he added.
The church will also act as a dialogue centre, according to Rev Thompson, bringing both Christians and Muslims together to understand each other’s faiths and beliefs.
“There is huge interest from the Christian community in seeking to understand Islam intellectually from the standpoint of their faith, and every week I meet Muslims who are wanting to understand the Christian community,” he said.
“We are keen to create a safe space where friendships can be made across the different faith communities and provide a resource in the form of lectures, books and meeting religious leaders.
“We will be looking to the government to advise us on how that might be accomplished,” he further added.
Rev Thompson said that once complete, the church would provide a strong symbol of coexistence for the region.
“The new church will continue to uphold our historical tradition of hospitality to all Christians and to maintain our commitment in partnering with the UAE to promote the value of tolerance.”