Under the slogan 'A Call for Harmony', the Department of Community Development (DCD) in Abu Dhabi held a ceremony on Sunday September 22nd to grant licences to the existing 18 non-Muslim places of worship in the emirate of Abu Dhabi: 17 churches and the BAPS Hindu Mandir (temple), which is under construction there. Licences for five other places of worship were also announced in the ceremony.
In accordance with Resolution No 59 of 2018, issued by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and Chairperson of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council, the event aimed to highlight the DCD’s vital role in regulating places of worship in Abu Dhabi, as reported by Emirates News Agency (WAM).
DCD Chairperson Dr Mugheer Khamis Al Khaili affirmed in his speech that the ceremony to hand over the licences of the non-Muslim places of worship underscored the efforts of Abu Dhabi in fostering the principles of fraternity, affinity and harmony among all parts of society.
"The late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founder of the UAE, was keen to establish a cohesive society in which everyone participates to build, develop and upgrade the nation. The late Sheikh Zayed also paid attention to all sections of society. This has made Abu Dhabi a unique model in safeguarding a person’s right to a dignified, safe and stable life," said Dr Mugheer.
"Our wise leadership, under the directives of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, is keen to provide all the means for dignified living for members of the community, and to secure their needs and rights in full, so as to enhance their role in advancing development," he added.
Since its inception, the DCD has been keen to provide a "decent life for all" and to ensure integration in the social sector, by providing the highest standards of welfare and happiness for all parts of the community and improve their quality of life, according to Dr Mugheer.
Sultan Al Mutawa, Executive Director of DCD Community Engagement and Sports Sector, said that the ceremony shaped new concepts of fraternity and synergy, with the DCD aiming to strengthen social harmony among all parts of the community.
"The Emirate of Abu Dhabi embraces a community of diverse cultures and nationalities, united by the spirit of love, giving and service towards the nation. Accordingly, the DCD, in cooperation with its partners, has developed legal frameworks, policies, and regulations, which ensure that believers of all religions practise their religion conveniently and smoothly, in accordance with the laws and regulations applicable in the UAE, without compromising the authenticity of UAE customs and traditions," Sultan Al Mutawa added.
The DCD pointed out that it had met with all those in charge of places of worship, as well as a number of religious figures representing different religions and sects, and they were introduced to the conditions and policies that must be met in order for places of worship to obtain licences.
Dr Mugheer handed over the licences to representatives of the houses of worship at the ceremony. For their part, representatives of the places of worship praised the efforts made by the DCD towards facilitating the licensing procedures, together with other government agencies, confirming that this reflected the UAE's image as a cohesive society.
The ceremony featured a creative presentation that simulated the harmony and cohesion of the community, focusing on the religious, cultural and demographic diversity in the emirate and the harmony and social integration that has characterised the Abu Dhabi community throughout its history.
During the event, a timeline of the history of the places of worship in the emirate was also presented, reflecting social cohesion among citizens of all religions in the UAE for decades, as well as the extent of coexistence and fraternity among individuals.
Abu Dhabi is home to Saint Joseph’s Cathedral, founded in the 1960s. In addition, Sir Bani Yas Church and Monastery was the first Christian site to be discovered in the UAE. The foundation stone for the region's first traditional, stone, Hindu temple was also laid in the capital in April this year.
Under the slogan 'A Call for Harmony', the decision is to bring all the institutions of worship together in one official, unified organisation in an effort to assist and allow non-Muslims to freely practise their faith in a nation keenly interested in creating harmony among different parts of society.