Abu Dhabi (AsiaNews) – An important gesture of “tolerance” and a “positive step” forward by the Muslim leadership towards Christians, showing “openness and interest in dialogue”, says Msgr. Paul Hinder, apostolic vicar of southern Arabia (UAE, Oman and Yemen), commenting to AsiaNews on the decision of the Emirates’ to rename a mosque in Abu Dhabi, devoting it to the Virgin. The mosque, the prelate adds, “is near St. Joseph’s Cathedral” and this gesture indicates, at least ideally, the desire to bring “the sacred family” together involving both religions.
On June 14, Sheikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince and Defense Minister of Abu Dhabi, as well as supreme leader of the United Arab Emirates (EAU), decided to rename a mosque in Al Mushrif district. Dedicated to Sheikh Mohammad Bin Zayed, today the mosque is called “Mariam, Umm Eisa”, the Arabic name of “Mary the Mother of Jesus”.
Behind the choice, the will of the Emirate’s leadership to “consolidate the bonds of humanity” among “faithful of different religion” in a period of tensions and violence, even in the confessional background, which have now crossed the borders of the Middle East. Sheikh Lubna Al Qasimi, Minister of State for Tolerance (a newly introduced ministry to foster inter-religious dialogue), thanked the hereditary prince for the choice. It acts as an example, the minister explains, and a “beautiful image of tolerance and coexistence” by the Emirates, a nation that hosts immigrants and workers from over 200 countries in the world.
The mosque is within easy reach of the Catholic cathedral of St. Joseph and the Anglican parish of Saint Andrew. The gesture of Muslim leadership met with the applause of representatives of the whole Christian, Catholic and Protestant community, confirming the example of openness and tolerance shown by the UAE in a regional context of chaos and confessional violence. An opening repaid by Christians, as witnessed by the decision made in recent days by a parish of Al Ain, which opened its doors for the prayer of ṣalāt al-maghrib, the fourth of the day recited immediately after sunset. The Christian worship site hosted up to 200 Muslims, mostly immigrant workers.
In a communiqué, the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia recalled that the office of Msgr. Hinder lies “a few meters away” from the former mosque of Sheikh Mohammad Bin Zayed, now dedicated to the Virgin. The vicariate remembers the common devotion that Christians and Muslims have for Mary, the mother of Jesus, who represents “a prominent figure” both in the Bible and in the Koran and constitutes an “important bond” between the two faiths. This gesture, concludes the note, “will contribute to peace and mutual understanding not only in the United Arab Emirates but throughout the region.” (DS)