Dubai: Huge crowds turned out to mark Good Friday at UAE churches at the start of the Easter weekend.
Catholic and orthodox churches, which make up the first and second largest Christian congregations in the UAE, made special arrangements to handle the sheer numbers of worshippers expected to attend services during the Holy Week, which marks Jesus Christ’s passion, death and resurrection.
Since early morning on Friday, believers from various countries started arriving at prominent churches in droves to attend the masses held throughout the day in multiple languages.
Good Friday is the day that marks the crucifixion of Jesus at the hands of Roman soldiers.
At Dubai’s St. Mary’s Catholic Church, thousands were seen attending the 3pm mass in English outside the main church hall which was packed to the brim.
As Dubai Police and security guards managed the traffic and crowds, parishioners and visiting worshippers made a beeline to the church premises from the nearby Metro Station in Oud Metha.
Every year I see more people coming to the church events. I think there are thousands more attending the service in Jebel Ali churches. We are here and in Jebel Ali to help control the traffic and the crowd to ensure everyone’s safety.
The church had made elaborate arrangements to accommodate the teeming worshippers by setting up temporary tents and allotting special halls for the sick, elderly and mothers with babies and young children.
The family of Natasha Miranda, who came with her elderly mother-in-law, and two children, including the younger one in a pram, were among those who attended the service in a dedicated hall for them.
As she was heading to one of the tents to attend the mass, Roselyn Mallari, a sales administration assistant, said Good Friday is one of the most important days in her faith adding that she never misses the service.
“It is a day of prayers for us Christians. In the Philippines, we visit seven churches on this day,” she said.
A UAE resident for 10 years, Mallari said she feels great to be living in the UAE “because religion is not a barrier here.”
“When the Pope came here, we also got to attend the Papal mass.”
“They respect everyone here,” added her daughter Ann Mallari, an insurance coordinator in Abu Dhabi.
Ify, a college student from London who is on a short visit to the UAE, said she was happy that she could attend the mass with people of several countries in Dubai.
“It is really nice. I like how they accommodate everyone here. It is really great considering this is an Islamic country,” said the British national of Nigerian descent.
Binu Shibu, an Indian nurse, said she considers herself lucky to be getting the chance to attend the weekly mass in her mother tongue Malayalam in Dubai. “But it is a special feeling when you attend the service in English with worshippers from various countries.”
Parmar Samuel Andreas, one of the lay ministers of the church who has been volunteering at the church events for 42 years, said he had been seeing the number of worshippers increasing year by year.
“We are very thankful to the UAE Rulers and all government entities in Dubai, especially the CDA (Community Development Authority), Dubai Police, Dubai Municipality, RTA (Roads and Transport Authority), Rashid Hospital and the ambulance services who offer full support to us to hold our religious events here,” he said.
Andreas’ words were echoed by police officer Nasser Obad Aliswileh, who has been with Dubai Police for 31 years.
“Yes, every year I see more people coming to the church events. I think there are thousands more attending the service in Jebel Ali churches. We are here and in Jebel Ali to help control the traffic and the crowd to ensure everyone’s safety.”