Abu Dhabi - Non-Muslim places of worship will now be regulated by the Department of Community Development.
Leaders of religious institutions in the UAE hailed the Abu Dhabi government's decision to give legal recognition to 19 non-Muslim places of worship. On Wednesday, the Department of Community Development (DCD) announced establishing a legal framework to issue the licences to churches, temples and gurudwaras. These places of worship will now be regulated by the department.
Father Benny Mathew, vicar of St George Orthodox Cathedral, which was established prior to the formation of the UAE, said the licence will be a solution to many issues faced by religious institutions. "This is a great development. Once we get a licence, our functioning will be smoother. So far, whenever we approached the government authorities for any needs, they would first ask for a licence," Mathew said.
"We will have better cooperation and rapport with the authorities. We have submitted the required documents to get the licence," the priest said.
Church vicar Babu P. Kulathackal of the Abu Dhabi Mar Thoma Parish that was formed in 1971, said the government licence will improve the support system for religious institutions. "We welcome this move in the Year of Tolerance. This will strengthen the standing of religious institutions in the country, apart from promoting peace and harmony.
This will be a good message from the UAE to the world," Kulathackal said, adding that further details will be known only after attending a workshop conducted by local authorities.
Swami Brahmaviharidas, who is overseeing the construction of the first BAPS Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi, said the licence will help religious institutions get more support from the local authorities.
"The leadership of Abu Dhabi have consistently showed their true commitment to building a peaceful and harmonious nation. Allowing for the official licensing of different places of worship will help people of all communities peacefully practise their faith while respecting the laws of this land," the priest said.
"We welcome the government's announcement as it will facilitate communication and understanding and will also help different institutions to receive the necessary assistance to better serve the community. Already, in our several meetings with the DCD, we have experienced this care, commitment and compassion," Brahmaviharidas added.
Representatives of the first Gurudwara for Sikh community in Abu Dhabi are elated by the historic decision. Harjinder Singh Khalsa said: "We will study the guidelines which will be given to us by the DCD. This licence comes as a new hope to realise our needs," Khalsa said.
Gurbachan Singh Sahowal, another representative, said the entire community is happy with the legal recognition. "This decision has given immense pleasure to the entire Sikh community in Abu Dhabi and worldwide. This is an invaluable gift to us in the Year of Tolerance. We express our gratitude to the Rulers. Our community members are meeting on Monday to plan our future course of action," Sahowal added.