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Abu Dhabi: The opening of a new Church of South India (CSI) Parish Abu Dhabi was officially announced at St. Andrew’s church in the capital on Friday evening, marked by a Blessing Foundation Stone ceremony.

The new church will be built at a new worship centre in Abu Mureikha, off the E11 Abu Dhabi-Dubai Highway, on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi and will spread over an area of 4.37 acres of land.

Most Reverend Thomas K Oommen, Moderator of CSI and Bishop of the Central Kerala Diocese, blessed the Foundation Stone ceremony at St. Andrew’s Church on Friday in the presence of Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mabarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance.

The stone will be laid at the Abu Mureikha site on Saturday, December 7, and the church is expected to be complete by December 2020.

Shaikh Nahyan, said, "UAE is a Muslim country and such events show our tolerance and peaceful living in harmony with other beliefs, religions and cultures. This is the Year of Tolerance and we honour the legacy of our ancestors.

"I feel honoured to be part of this foundation stone blessing ceremony," he added.   

“We are humbled and honoured to be recognised as an official church under registration No. CP008 and extend our sincere gratitude to the Department of Community Development (DCD), Abu Dhabi,” read a statement from the church.

“As we embark on the journey of building a new Worship Centre at Abu Mureikha, we envision this centre to become a symbol of tolerance, love and care for different nationalities, faith and culture, and thereby provide invaluable services to the UAE community as a whole,” the church statement added.

Speaking to Gulf News at the inaugural event, one of the parishioners Prameesh Mathews, 40, from Abu Dhabi, said, “We have been waiting for this moment for the last 40 years as the community has been praying at St Andrew’s church. Now our dreams have come true. Truly, it’s historic moment for us.”

This is going to be the first fully-fledged CSI church in Abu Dhabi, said Mathews, who hails from Kerala in South India, but has lived in the UAE for the past 12 years.

Another Indian resident in the capital, Rahul Cheriyan, 40, said, “We are highly excited about the opening of the first CSI church in Abu Dhabi for the Malayalee community. We are thankful to the government for gifting us this land and accepting and respecting the community, our beliefs and culture.”

The community has been waiting for this moment for long time and we are very happy that it opens in our second home, the UAE, added Cheriyan, who also resides in the capital.

The Church of South India (CSI) Parish Abu Dhabi was established at Abu Dhabi St. Andrew’s Centre, Corniche, on 19th April, 1979 under the leadership and guidance of Bishop of Central Kerala Diocese of Church of South India, the second largest Christian church in India of Anglican and Protestant traditions with four million members worldwide.

Today the CSI Abu Parish has grown to a church of 750 worshippers.

“We sincerely thank His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces for the deep love bestowed upon us by granting us 4.37 acres of land at Abu Mureikha to add one more symbol of tolerance to this great nation,” the church statement said.