x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Praise for interfaith church leader in UAE

The Scottish chaplain who is allowing Muslims to pray at his church was once a parishioner in Abu Dhabi's St Andrew's Church.

ABU DHABI // The move by the former Abu Dhabi resident Rev Isaac Poobalan, rector of St John's Episcopal Church in the Scottish city of Aberdeen, to allow Muslims to pray there has won praise from the capital.

Hundreds of Muslims are now praying five times a day at St John's because the nearby mosque was so small worshippers were forced to pray outside.

"We are committed to interfaith bridge building in the UAE," Rev Canon Andrew Thompson, the chaplain at St Andrew's, said yesterday. "It's a very positive story."

Canon Thompson, who joined St Andrews in June 2010, said Rev Poobalan had been a member of the Abu Dhabi congregation.

He grew up in South India watching people of different faiths pray alongside one another in the chapel of a Christian medical college.

After he completed his training as a nurse, he came to Abu Dhabi. While worshipping at St Andrew's he realised he had a vocation.

A 63-year-old member of St Andrew's from Tamil Nadu described Rev Poobalan as "very pious" and active in the church activities.

"We met in church in the '80s," said the church member, an Abu Dhabi resident since 1977.

"He started out as a member of the congregation, became a reader and went to Scotland where he was ordained.

"He's doing a fantastic job in the UK. It's very commendable."

Canon Thompson said: "It is fitting that someone who benefited from Islamic hospitality of the UAE has reciprocated that tradition of friendship between Christians and Muslims it in the UK.

"At a time when interfaith community violence is a global issue it is great to see a practical model of interfaith relations which honours both communities."