Christianity in the UAE: Culture and Heritage
By Andrew Thompson
Motivate Publishing – ISBN 978-1-86063-322-5
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Review by Revd Timothy Biles (Bible Lands editor)
The Reverend Andrew Thompson MBE, Senior Anglican Chaplain at St Andrew’s Church in Abu Dhabi has produced a handsome 200 page hardback with a variety of illustrations, clear and colourful. It is more than that, it is a significant contribution to inter faith relations and reveals a model of the way a Muslim country can support the Christian communities.
Yousef Al Hassan, founder of the Arab Group for Muslim-Christian dialogue writes:
This is a testament to the tolerance and freedom to practice one’s religion that the UAE has offered its residents for decades
He describes the book as
a riveting account which gives us a fairer look at an area which has been too often misjudged in the west.
The author claims that more than 10,000 worshippers pass through the church compound on Fridays. This astonishing number confirms the nation’s acceptance of different cultures.
The author concludes,
Living the Christian faith in the Muslim world is in some ways easier than living the faith in a secular society.
He recognizes this is not common throughout the Middle East.
The Christian communities in Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq face tough and perilous times.
Thompson naturally pays special attention to his Anglican church of St Andrew. Originally sited on the Corniche, the land was required by the government for development. St Andrew’s moved to its present Mushrif location, where the first foundation stone was laid by the Archbishop of York in 1982. The site is currently undergoing another transformation, with the construction of a multi-storey faith facility.
The author goes beyond his Anglican tradition and provides a useful potted history of the Christian communities of the UAE. He covers the development of the Evangelical Church, as well as the history of the Roman Catholic, Indian and Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Churches and provides a vision of the church in the Emirates in the years ahead. The Oriental Orthodox, the Greek Orthodox, the Protestant and the Roman Catholic churches are all recognized and their roles evaluated.
Among those who have written approvingly of this book is the Roman Catholic bishop, Rt Revd Paul Hinder. He recognizes the need for Muslims and Christians commit to build bridges in the Middle East and declares this book to be
an important contribution to inter faith dialogue.
Roman Catholic bishop, Rt Revd Paul Hinder
The last word is from a key man, the UAE Minister of Higher Education and Science, HH Sheikh Nahayan bin Mabarak Al Nahayan, who says
This book promotes respect and understanding between Islam and Christianity. We all learn from it and our knowledge brings us closer together so that we may ‘know one another’ and fulfil God’s expectation.
HH Sheikh Nahayan bin Mabarak Al Nahayan
Amen to that.
Featured in Bible Lands, Winter 2013