Abu Dhabi/Dubai: Communal prayers at churches and temples across the UAE are being held today and will be held tomorrow as well in observance of the passing of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Friday.
Religious and community leaders have also paid their heartfelt tributes to the second president of the country, saying “the departure of Sheikh Khalifa has left a deep void in people’s hearts”. They added: “In this sad moment, we unite with all the honourable citizens of the UAE and the residents of this generous country. Sheikh Khalifa has given so much to the UAE that it has become a country of tolerance, love and respect. We pray to God to comfort his family, the people of the UAE and all residents of our beloved country at this difficult time.”
Grateful for great services
The leader of the Catholic Church in the region, Abu Dhabi-based Bishop Paul Hinder OFM Cap., apostolic administrator of Southern Arabia, said: “I am profoundly saddened by the demise of Sheikh Khalifa. May his soul rest in peace. We will always remain grateful for his great services as the president to this blessed nation and its people. Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan was a great leader and a statesman. He continued the legacy of his father and the founder of this country, the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan (Peace be upon him).”
He added: “The late Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan loved his people and his country. His vision for the country is evident in the many developmental projects and reforms undertaken under his presidency.”
Special intentions during masses at St Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Jebel Ali, Dubai, are being observed today (May 14) at 8.30am, 6.30pm, and 8pm; and tomorrow (May 15) at 7.30am, 9am, 10.30am, 12pm, 3pm, 5pm, 7pm, and 8pm. The church said it is “in solidarity with the entire nation on the demise of its great leader”.
In a message sent to Gulf News, Pastor Ray Galea, senior pastor of Fellowship Dubai, said: “We join in mourning with the beloved Emirati people, and to all residents of the good land of the Emirates from all over the world. Our heartfelt condolences to the Arab nations and the world at large on the passing of Sheikh Khalifa.”
God protect the UAE
The Arab Evangelical Church in Dubai held a special prayer today. Reverend Wael Elian Haddad said: “We unite in prayer, asking God Almighty to comfort everyone, and asking Him to protect the government and people of the UAE from all evil, and always lead it towards safety and peace.”
In his prayer, Hisham Youssef, chairman of Dubai Evangelical Church Centre, said: “Our heartfelt condolences to the Arab and Islamic nation and the world at large on the farewell of Sheikh Khalifa. Our prayers for condolences from all our hearts for his family, the people of the UAE and all residents of our beloved country at this difficult time. May God protect this beloved country.”
John Folmar, senior pastor at Evangelical Christian Church of Dubai, added: “We are grateful for the wise leadership of Sheikh Khalifa and we express our condolences and respect to the Emirati people during this time of mourning. The UAE prospered under his rule and we are grateful for his wise leadership and legacy.”
Faith, integrity and courage
Fr Mina Hanna, from St Mina Coptic Church in Jebel Ali, said: “With hearts filled with sorrow and with sincere sadness, I mourn our beloved wise leader Sheikh Khalifa. He was a man of faith integrity and courage. He has given a lot to the UAE that has become a country of tolerance, love and respect.” The Coptic Church in the UAE will have special prayers on Sunday from 8-10am.
Justin Runyan, senior pastor at Emirates Baptist Church International, added: “We are deeply saddened by the passing of Sheikh Khalifa, a visionary and compassionate leader of our times. We express our heartfelt condolences to all people in the UAE. We pray for comfort, strength, peace and wisdom for all at this time, especially for the leadership of the UAE.”
Special hymns for Sheikh Khalifa
The Gurudarbar Sindhi Temple, which has been in existence since 1958 in Souq Al Kabeer, held a special prayer for the late president in the morning today. Gopal Kookani, general manager of the temple, told Gulf News: “We prayed for the departed soul in a special ‘Abhishek’ — an offering to the Lord. For five minutes, the priests at the temple recited special hymns for the late president’s soul to rest in peace. Our beloved late president was a benevolent ruler. We have enjoyed tolerance of religions during his reign.”
Special prayers were also held at Guru Nanak Darbar Gurudwara today in the evening. Surender Singh Kandhari, philanthropist, said: “The entire Sikh community and Guru Nanak Darbar Gurudwara Dubai UAE mourns the demise of Sheikh Khalifa. He was a visionary and benevolent ruler who supported the needy all over the world. He stood by the values laid down by his late father Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. He made the UAE a home for more than 200 nationalities and treated all as equals.”
Lalit K. Karani, honourary chairman of the Mercantile Hindu community of Thatta Sindh, also said the temple would hold prayers for Sheikh Khalifa tomorrow, from 5.30pm to 5.45pm. “The Krishna Temple will have daily prayers during the mourning period. We have lost a great leader. Our deepest sympathy and condolences are with the ruling family, people and residents of UAE. The Hindu community and with many other communities in UAE collectively pray to the Almighty for his soul to attain eternal peace.”