The UAE is moving on with its historical legacy of hosting a multicultural community that enjoys freedom of faith.
Published: Wed 25 Sep 2019, 12:30 PM
Last updated: Wed 25 Sep 2019, 5:33 PM
The UAE has been home to places of worship of many religions for several decades. Christians of various denominations from across the globe, Hindus and Buddhists from South Asia and elsewhere, and believers of many other religions and sects have been practising their faith in this land of tolerance freely and comfortably. As the UAE is celebrating the 'Year of Tolerance' in 2019, priests and leaders of various religious communities in the country graciously reminisce the long history of peaceful coexistence of different faiths and their houses of worship in the country. The UAE boasts of having some of the oldest discovered places of worship in the Arabian Peninsula; Ed Dur's sun temple in Umm Al Qaiwain is one among them. It is believed to have been once a place of worship for the Semitic sun god 'Shams', the temple was found from excavations conducted by a Belgian expedition over thirty years ago. Another historical gem is on Sir Bani Yas Island, which is one of the oldest discovered monasteries of the Arabian Peninsula. Discovered in 1992, the Sir Bani Yas Church and Monastery dates back to the 7th and 8th centuries CE. Today, many churches and temples stand as major landmarks and integral part of the multicultural communities across the emirates. Some of them were built decades ago. The St. Antony Cathedral was initially built in 1983 on a land on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi. "When we asked for a location closer to the city, we were graciously given one by the rulers," Bishop Anba Abakir tells Emirates News Agency, Wam. In the heart of Dubai, between the alleyways of Bur Dubai's old Souq and the scenic creek, stands the Hindu Temple, which was founded in 1958 under the patronage of the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum. For the past 60 years, the temple in Dubai has been catering to a large number of Hindus living in the UAE. Gopal Kookani, General Manager of the temple, says he appreciates the freedom of faith Hindus enjoy in the UAE. "We celebrate all our festivals in this premises with the support of the local authorities, including the police," he adds. The police help manage the crowd when festivals are celebrated in the temple premises. The annual 'Maha Shivaratri' festival is the largest event that attracts around 200,000 people. Still everything goes smoothly with the support of local authorities. "The UAE is my home. I came here when I was 22 years old, I am now 68," Kookai said. "As you can see, there are no restrictions to practising our religion here." The UAE is moving on with its historical legacy of hosting a multicultural community that enjoys freedom of faith. Abu Dhabi granting licenses for places of worship, preparations to open the largest Hindu temple in the emirate in 2020, and unveiling the design of the 'Abrahamic Family House' are all part of keeping that rich legacy of peaceful coexistence of all religious in this land of tolerance. These moves reinforces the fact that the UAE continues to follow the footsteps of the founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan who advocated peace and harmony for all.