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Abrahamic Family House: Interfaith unity in the Middle East

Abrahamic Family House, United Arab Emirates

Boubloub | Wikipedia | CC BY-SA 4.0

J-P Mauro - published on 02/26/23

The 2019 joint statement between Pope Francis and Grand Imam Dr. Ahmed El-Tayeb has come to fruition with the opening of the new complex.

A joint statement on human fraternity between Pope Francis and Grand Imam Dr. Ahmed El-Tayeb has come to fruition with the opening of the Abrahamic Family House, an interfaith complex in the United Arab Emirates that includes a church, a synagogue, and a mosque. The pair signed a historic pledge of camaraderie in 2019; now the worship complex stands as a testament to goodwill among three of the largest religions in the world.  

According to The Times of Israel, while the three buildings match in size and shape, each one bears features to suit the traditions of its faith. The Christian church faces East and is said to look marvelous in the morning sunlight. The oak pews on the stone floor can accommodate some 300 worshipers. 

The synagogue has a similar layout of pews, but where the Christians place the crucifix is a backdrop of the 10 Commandments written in Hebrew. This building receives a lot of light from the ceiling, light that must pass through a bronze net to make for more intimate lighting. Meanwhile, the mosque, facing Mecca, has carpeted floors in lieu of pews, with separate areas for men and women to perform ablutions. 

While it has not been revealed how much the complex cost to build, The Times of Israel estimates that it could have cost in the hundreds of millions.

Common space to promote understanding

Each of the three grayish-white structures was constructed as a cube, sized 30 meters wide, long, and high. The buildings are arranged in a triangle around a raised pavilion area, which acts as common space for adherents of the three faiths; a place to promote understanding and peace among the three largest religions in the Middle East. 

Design Boom goes a little deeper into its description of the Christian church, named His Holiness Francis Church. They note that the ceiling was built with a “forest” of wooden beams reaching down from the rafters to symbolize rays of light. The corpus of the crucifix is intentionally minimalistic, with few facial features, in order to emphasize that the Church is open to all. 

The Christian church was officially inaugurated at a February 19 ceremony presided over by Cardinal Michael Fitzgerald, with hymns and prayers.

Bishop Paolo Martinelli, the apostolic vicar of Southern Arabia, was on hand to speak at the event’s conclusion. He reflected on the “Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together,” a document co-authored by Pope Francis and Grand Imam El-Tayeb. CNA provides the bishop’s comments

“We have entered a new phase in the history of religions,” Martinelli said. “With the Abu Dhabi document on human fraternity, a prophetic and far-sighted document, religions are presented in their original capacity to collaborate and contribute together to the formation of a more humane world, in which we all recognize ourselves as brothers and sisters, called to fraternity, to coexistence and tolerance, mutual acceptance, and the promotion of justice and peace.”

Read more at The Times of Israel.

ChristianIslamJewishMiddle EastPope Francis
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