UAE residents in spiritual mood ahead of Easter


khaleejtimes.com, 20-04-2019 08:23:35


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UAE residents in spiritual mood ahead of Easter

Christians praised the UAE government’s policy on religious tolerance.

Churches across the UAE are draped in a veil of prayer and reflection as Christians observe the holy week with religious devotion, leading up to a joyful Easter celebration on Sunday.

"This is the time when we contemplate on the passion of Jesus Christ, a pious narrative that provides hope and inspiration for us Christians," said Dubai resident Miriam Santos, who goes to St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Oud Metha. "This is also the time when we reflect on our faith and spirituality and look at our contribution to our Christian churches that provide us a sense of belonging and community," she added.

Christians in the country have also contemplated on their religious life as they praised the government’s policy on religious tolerance.

"The UAE’s Year of Tolerance, marked by the recent visit of Pope Francis, has movingly strengthened the bond of two of the oldest religions in the world: Islam and Christianity," Dr Rex Bacarra, professor of philosophy and humanities at The American College of Dubai, told Khaleej Times.

"It was a visit heralded with joyful tears and the waving of the hands, which from afar looked like waves in chorus, reminiscent of the entry of Jesus on a donkey to Jerusalem, with people holding and waving palm branches, shouting in awe and great jubilation, hopeful, and joyful at the sight of the Son of God," he shared.

"But (in church history) the great jubilation was replaced by suffering - Jesus was made to suffer. His body was whipped; his head crowned mockingly with thorns, and his hands and feet were nailed to the cross, and the side of his body struck with a spear. It was a pain so excruciating he breathed his last while hanging on the cross," he added.

For Bacarra, this passion story is being experienced to a lesser degree by Christians in diaspora. "The pain of separation from our loved ones, the sacrifices just to send money and support back home, the discrimination that may arise and the inequality that may befall, the tears of a wife or a mother, a husband or a father, or a child at the other end of a long distance call, are but a sharing of the suffering."

"But we, Christians, have plenty to be thankful for," noted Bacarra, adding: "We have the leaders of the UAE who are making sure that our stay can feel closer to home, if not better. The visit of the Pope and the celebration of the Year of Tolerance and its implications are concrete manifestations of a country trying its best to make us feel good and at home, so that we may not have to endure the burden of time," he underlined.

For Tina Flores, holy week and Easter are a time "to celebrate God’s goodness and blessings in our lives as expat workers. "It is a time to value Jesus’ sacrifice."

"Easter to me is a time for celebration," added Dubai resident Karen Lobo. "It’s a time to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord - a time to forget all the stress of our everyday lives and a time to bring families and friends together under one roof and create beautiful memories."

UAE Christians turn out en masse to mark Good Friday

Worshippers offer prayers, praise country’s tolerance that allows them to practice faith

Dubai: Huge crowds turned out to mark Good Friday at UAE churches at the start of the Easter weekend.

Catholic and orthodox churches that make up the first and second largest Christian congregations in the UAE made special arrangements to handle the sher numbers of worshippers expected to attend services during the Holy Week, which marks Jesus Christ’s final week on earth.

Since early morning on Friday, believers from various countries started arriving at prominent churches in droves to attend the masses held throughout the day in multiple languages.

Good Friday is the day that marks the crucifixion of Jesus before his return on Easter Sunday and his later ascension.

At Dubai’s St. Mary’s Catholic Church, thousands were seen attending the 3pm mass in English outside the main church hall which was packed to the brim.

As Dubai Police and security guards managed the traffic and crowds, parishioners and visiting worshippers made a beeline to the church premises from the nearby Metro Station in Oud Metha.

The church had made elaborate arrangements to accommodate the teeming worshippers by setting up temporary tents and allotting special halls for the sick, elderly and mothers with babies and young children.

The family of Natasha Miranda, who came with her elderly mother-in-law, and two children, including the younger one in a pram, were among those who attended the service in a dedicated hall for them.

As she was heading to one of the tents to attend the mass, Roselyn Mallari, a sales administration assistant, said Good Friday is one of the most important days in her faith adding that she never misses the service.

“It is a day of prayers for us Christians. In the Philippines, we visit seven churches on this day,” she said.

A UAE resident for 10 years, Mallari said she feels great to be living in the UAE “because religion is not a barrier here.”

“When the Pope came here, we also got to attend the Papal mass.”

“They respect everyone here,” added her daughter Ann Mallari, an insurance coordinator in Abu Dhabi.

Ify, a college student from London who is on a short visit to the UAE, said she was happy that she could attend the mass with people of several countries in Dubai.

“It is really nice. I like how they accommodate everyone here. It is really great considering this is an Islamic country,” said the British national of Nigerian descent.

Binu Shibu, an Indian nurse, said she considers herself lucky to be getting the chance to attend the weekly mass in her mother tongue Malayalam in Dubai. “But it is a special feeling when you attend the service in English with worshippers from various countries.”

Increasing numbers

Parmar Samuel Andreas, one of the lay ministers of the church who has been volunteering at the church events for 42 years, said he had been seeing the number of worshippers increasing year by year.

“We are very thankful to the UAE Rulers and all government entities in Dubai, especially the CDA (Community Development Authority), Dubai Police, Dubai Municipality, RTA (Roads and Transport Authority), Rashid Hospital and the ambulance services who offer full support to us to hold our religious events here,” he said.

Andreas’ words were echoed by police officer Nasser Obad Aliswileh, who has been with Dubai Police for 31 years.

“Yes, every year I see more people coming to the church events. I think there are thousands more attending the service in Jebel Ali churches. We are here and in Jebel Ali to help control the traffic and the crowd to ensure everyone’s safety.”

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