x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Pakistani Christians ask for land to build a new church

Demand for worship times is very high, which means services are held late in the evening when most of the community are unable to attend regularly.

DUBAI // Pakistani Christians in Abu Dhabi have backed an appeal for land on which to build a new church and a school in the capital.

The community is made up of more than 5,000 members who share Abu Dhabi's three churches with other Christian groups. As a result, demand for worship times is very high, which means services are held late in the evening when most of the community are unable to attend regularly.

At the end of last month, Azad Marshall, the Anglican bishop of the national council of churches in Pakistan, visited the capital and appealed to the Government for land.

The congregation of the Christ Revival Church meets every Friday at a hall near St Joseph's cathedral in Abu Dhabi.

Arshad Gill, a church organiser, said that although there were three churches for Christians in the capital, they were often very busy with different groups taking up different time slots.

"The big problem is we can't fit in, time wise," he said. "It is always packed and our particular slot is from 9.30pm to 11pm, and that's not convenient for many of our congregation.

"We have many who work late evenings, so it's not possible for them to come and pray."

Austin Gill, a member of the church committee, agreed. "We have between 50 and 100 people in our congregation most weeks, but we could easily get more," he said.

"Most of our congregation are manual labourers, so the current worshipping times aren't good for them. Many of them start their shifts in the early hours on Saturdays, so it is not possible for them to attend a late-evening service on a Friday and then be up for work again on Saturday."

Worshippers meet every Friday but have to fit around a schedule with numerous other congregations.

There are only three churches in Abu Dhabi which hold sermons in Urdu and this is not enough to cater for the 5,000 Pakistani Christians in the emirate, explained Arshad Gill.

"Our congregation is about 100 people, but we have to fit in worship around many other communities as well.

"The Indian and Chinese Christians have their own congregations so it's always packed. It gets so busy that members of the Ethiopian community sometimes even take to praying outside."

Arshad Gill added that a new church for worshippers of all groups is much needed and would help to ease the burden on existing facilities.

"I think if we can get a new church built with a capacity for about 200 people that would be ideal," he said.

"If we were able to build a church for the Pakistani community, then it would allow more of our worshippers the opportunity to come and pray."

nhanif@thenational.ae

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