x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Salvation Army to set up camp in Emirates

The Salvation Army, the international Christian movement known for its charity work, is to establish a presence in the UAE, according to church officials.

DUBAI // The Salvation Army, the international Christian movement known for its charity work, is to establish a presence in the UAE, according to church officials. The Emirates will be the second GCC country to host the Salvation Army. The movement began working in Kuwait in 2008. General Shaw Clifton, the Army's head, said this week that the group would "commence its work" in the UAE from June 1, bringing the number of countries where it operates to 121.

Commissioner Robin Forsyth, the international secretary for programme resources, said yesterday that the Army had been prompted to establish a presence in the UAE to "meet the needs" of followers of the movement, known as Salvationists. "We will be looking at both religious services for the group of active Salvationists as well as meeting needs in various areas and trying to help people," Mr Forsyth said from the Army's international headquarters in Britain.

The move into the UAE was seen as an "extension" of the work that the movement had been doing in Kuwait, as well as in Iraq where it had been involved primarily in humanitarian relief efforts since 2003, he said. Mr Forsyth said there were about 100 Salvationists in the UAE. Most are from the Indian subcontinent, with others from Europe. According to the Army, there are a "significant" number of Tamil-speaking Salvationists here.

The Salvation Army would work under the auspices of other evangelical churches in the UAE, said Mr Forsyth. John Willson, the secretary of St Andrew's Church in Abu Dhabi, confirmed yesterday that his church was helping to establish the Army's presence. The St Andrew's complex already hosted "a number of Christian communities," he said, adding that his church and the Salvation Army "share a conviction to a ministry of compassion".

"The Salvation Army will be expressly catering to the expat community that falls between the cracks and is in the need of such ministry," he said. "Sharing a common vision for such people will assist us to work together." The Salvation Army began to explore an expansion into the UAE last year. From next month, Majors Mike and Teresa Hawley, a married couple from the United States who were previously based in Kuwait, will be the officers responsible for the movement in the UAE.

According to Mr Willson, the Army's representatives are expected to hold regular prayer meetings at Union Church in Sharjah and in Abu Dhabi at St Andrew's, a compound built on land donated by Sheikh Zayed, the late President. Rev John Weir, senior chaplain of the Anglican Chaplaincy of Dubai, Sharjah and the Northern Emirates, said he would welcome the Salvation Army to the UAE. "There is a tremendous amount of work in pastoral care to be done, so I would welcome anyone seeking to support migrants and people working in the country," he said.

The Salvation Army was founded in Britain in 1865. It has a strong focus on social welfare issues including health, education, poverty relief and charitable work. zconstantine@thenational.ae