x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Charity aids sailors of all faiths

Since its launch, the Flying Angel has welcomed more than 3,000 seafarers.

The Flying Angel takes its name from the biblical verse that led an English clergyman, John Ashley, to create the Missions to Seamen in 1856. Subsequently renamed the Mission to Seafarers, it defines its role as caring for the "spiritual and practical welfare of all seafarers regardless of nationality or faith". "Then I saw an angel flying in mid-heaven," reads the quotation from the Book of Revelations that inspired Mr Ashley, "with an eternal-gospel to proclaim to those on earth, to every nation and tribe, language and people."

The charity has since become known to sailors the world over for the mission houses it provides for seafarers on leave to unwind, meet other mariners and ? if they wish ? seek spiritual guidance. The Mission has existed in the UAE since 1962, and runs two houses in the UAE, owned by the municipalities of Dubai and Jebel Ali. Observing its original commitment to assist people of all faiths, the Mission ensures that Muslim seamen visiting the UAE can attend prayers, Mr Miller personally driving them to mosques. The need for such an organisation is underlined by statistics reflecting the reality of working at sea. One ship is lost on average every day of the year, according to the International Maritime Organisation. Awareness of danger is never far from a seafarer's mind; only last month, more than 700 people perished when a ferry sank in the Philippines.

"It's a dangerous job," says the Rev Stephen Miller, who came up with the idea of delivering services to crewmen and women unable to travel ashore. I wanted to do something special to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Mission to Seafarers." Since its launch, the Flying Angel has welcomed more than 3,000 seafarers, a figure Mr Miller expects to double in the second year. Despite the funding it receives, the project still needs to raise money to help meet daily costs of Dh2,700 (US$750), a burden growing with rising fuel prices.

The boat also makes one commercial trip every day to help defray these costs. - Rasha Elass