Abu Dhabi’s churches and Hindu temple receive official legal status

Senior Anglicans in the UAE on Sunday said they welcomed “a new beginning” for the Christian community in the country after more than a dozen non-Muslim places of worship received official legal status.

Abu Dhabi’s oldest church, together with the UAE’s first Hindu temple, were among 18 places of worship registered by authorities for the first time.

Many of the churches have existed in the Emirates for decades, with some having been given the land they are built on by Sheikh Zayed, the nation’s Founding Father.

Now, however, after an award ceremony, the sites will have official legal protection under a Department of Community Development initiative.

“Today marks the coming of age between the church and the United Arab Emirates,” said Rev Canon Andrew Thompson, senior Anglican Chaplain of St Andrew’s Church – one of the churches to receive a licence.

“The sheikhs has been generous in giving churches land for the last decade but we have never really had a mechanism to deal with government departments.

“Today marks a new beginning for the Christian community in particular, where we know we have friends who will be responsible for us and will help us with the entire legal framework.”

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