The newly built St Philip the Apostle Orthodox Church in Sharjah’s Al Yarmouk area. Construction work on the project began in September 2007 after the Ruler of Sharjah, allotted land to the Russian Orthodox community. Image Credit: Asghar Khan/Gulf News

Sharjah: The first St Philip the Apostle Orthodox Church in the UAE will open its doors to the public in Sharjah Saturday.

The 1,800 square-metre complex is not only a church, but a cultural hub.

Construction work on the project began in September 2007 after His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, allotted the land to the Russian Orthodox community.

Talks on the project first began in May 2005 with the visit of the first official delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church, lead by the chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations, Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad.

Yuri Sidorenko, a Russia businessman and chairman of the EDAPS Consortium, who is the warden of the new complex, said the building was constructed for the 200,000 Orthodox church members living in the country — mostly in Sharjah.

Sidorenko took financial responsibility for the building of the church.

He said: "A business that solely [makes] profit is hardly a success", pointing out that a devout businessman will never find happiness until his business becomes a tool that spreads spiritual values and that improves people's lives.

"An entrepreneur is a person who generates the power of life through projects. Motivation is founded either in the desire to develop and enhance life and the community around you, or in the wish to make as much money as possible and satisfy vanity." he said.

The widespread perception is that money and spirituality are incompatible, and Sidorenko believes the purpose of life is to reach a connection with God.

"The opinion that money spoils a person is a lie. It only spoils those who think that way and does not spoil those who don't.

"People who are actively involved in making money, and especially those who have reached the top of entrepreneurial success, undergo a challenging test," Sidorenko said.

He added: "While quoting Jean-Jacques Rousseau, "Money that you have is a tool of freedom; money that you pursue is a tool of slavery."