Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 July 2019

Abu Dhabi set to licence 19 non-Muslim places of worship

Churches, a temple and gurudwara will now be regulated by the Department of Community Development

His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj, the spiritual leader of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha. The UAE's first traditional Hindu temple is set to welcome worshippers from 2022 Reem Mohammed / The National
His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj, the spiritual leader of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha. The UAE's first traditional Hindu temple is set to welcome worshippers from 2022 Reem Mohammed / The National

Authorities in Abu Dhabi are set to licence 19 non-Muslim places of worship across the emirate.

Officials took the decision to bring all the institutions of worship under one licence umbrella in an effort to assist their day-to-day running.

Churches, temples and gurudwaras for Sikhs, for example, will now be regulated by the Department of Community Development.

The aim is to provide an official port of call within the government for religious bodies to turn to in times of need for advice or support.

“Previously, such bodies were not officially recognised by the law,” said Sultan Al Dhaheri, executive director of community participation and sport at the department.

“Now, these places of worship will have a point of contact in government to address any issues over their day-to-day operations.

“We have met with their leaders and explained to them the guidelines and we will be holding workshops for them.

“We have a partnership relationship with them and are working side by side."

There are currently 17 Christian churches of varying denominations across Abu Dhabi as well as one gurudwara.

A Hindu temple in the capital, which is due to open for worship in 2022, has already been granted its licence.

At a news conference on Wednesday, Mr Al Dhaheri said the UAE’s welcoming of other faiths was nothing new.

“[Non-Muslim] houses of worship have long existed in the country; the first church existed even before the union [of the UAE in 1971], so for more than 40 years," he said.

“Anyone who has been living here for many years should have the right to practice his religion in a proper way.”

Updated: June 30, 2019 07:00 PM

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