ABU DHABI // Residents, armed forces personnel, ambassadors and religious leaders came together to mark Remembrance Sunday yesterday.
In a service held at St Andrew’s Church in Abu Dhabi, prayers were said for men and women from the armed forces across the world who have lost their lives, as well as civilians who have died as a result of global conflict.
Remembrance Day falls on the Sunday closest to November 11, Armistice Day, which marks the end of the First World War in 1918.
The UAE was represented by Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the Minister of Culture, Youth, and Community Development.
The service was lead by Reverend Canon Andy Thompson, MBE, and senior Anglican chaplain of the church, who was accompanied by the Al Khubairat Orchestra and Choir.
“The proceedings are part of the British Commonwealth Remembrance Service, which is marked all around the world to remember all of those who have given their lives in war in service to their country,” Rev Thompson said.
“It is very different marking it overseas. It is a much more international event. We had ambassadors from over 40 different nations, a representative from the Al Nahyan family here and people who are serving on active duty here in the Middle East.
“We had Muslims and Hindus as well as all the whole tradition of the Christian Church. We even had a bishop from South Korea here – I was not aware that the South Koreans celebrated Remembrance Sunday but they do, remembering those who died in the Korean War.
“We hope people take away the message tonight that there is always hope, that God is always present in the midst of our crazy lives and a world of chaos, and we can trust in his justice, his righteousness and make sense of the loss of 200 million lives.”
Rev Thompson said that the service is not just about remembering the dead from the first two World Wars, but in all conflicts, past and present.
“There are people in our congregation who are worried for family in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as though who are involved in the Syrian conflict,” he said. “It is important that we remember those who gave their lives.”
The service was a memorable occasion for all.
“It was a great service, and a first time for me to join this ceremony and I was very happy to meet this Parish,” said Archbishop Bartholomaus Nathanael, Patriarchal Vicar of the Syrian Orthodox Church in the Arabian Gulf.
“For me it is normal because I have lived in the UAE for several years and it is truly multicultural, there are people from all over the world, this is the demography here. It is a like a basket, with a lot of different fruit, it is beautiful.
“All over the world there is conflict, but this conflict will be bigger if people cannot understand other people. You must accept others, all people of all religions. I have to accept you as you, and you have to accept me as me – when we reach this point, there will be no more conflict.
“There are over 120,000 British citizens who live here and probably over a million who visit each year,” said Col Rupert Robson, the defence attache at the British embassy in Abu Dhabi.
“Today has been a first-class example of an ability for those who wish to remember those who have fallen in all wars, from all countries, to come together and remember those who have given their lives. We remember not only the military but also civilians who have also died.
“We embrace all countries and I am delighted to see representatives from Turkey; from other allied nations who fought alongside the UK in both world wars.
“It is marvellous. Sheikh Nahyan is such a brilliant supporter of the service. Every year he comes and it is marvellous to see him continuing that tradition.
“I don’t think I’ve quite seen so many faiths represented in the chapel. It was fantastic to see them all. All of them bring something unique and different to the occasion.”