Amidst all the religious intolerance that is eating up this world from the very roots, this is a very interesting development taking place in Abu Dhabi – a mosque, a church, and a synagogue are getting built within touching distance of each other. This entire facility is located in the Abrahamic Family house. As the Old Testament goes, Abraham is one of the most important figures in all these three religions.
The plan to draw this comes after a visit of Pope Francis to the Arabian Peninsula in February. At this historic meeting, he met up with the Grand Imam Ahmed el-Tayeb of Al-Azhar, to discuss interreligious faith. Then both the wise men drew out their “A Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” which requested political leaders all over the world to work towards unified earth without any religious discrimination.
Dubai’s Crown Prince marked this meeting by arranging to build the mammoth structure that would be dedicated to interreligious faith. According to top reporters, this site would symbolize the diverse population that resides in the UAE. They also speak about how this area would try to restore the faith between the religions, by building on the amity amongst different people.
This entire facility is said to be completed by 2022, and Dubai’s ruler has already signed on the Foundation Stone.
It was on September 20 that the main idea behind the compound came into existence in Manhattan. Of all the firms trying to be a part of this, Adjaye associates, a British firm got the privilege. The structure is said to contain three buildings all shaped around a garden, which would also house an education center and a museum.
The structure in itself is quite illuminating. While they have different designs and structural integrities, the three cubes around a garden signify the unification of the three religions. Furthermore, as Sir David Adjaye mentioned to designboom, it is highly interesting to note that despite the difference in the structures, the façade and shadows for all the three buildings would remain the same- implying the shared history of the three religions.
Adjaye has also been credited with designing the Nobel Peace Centre in Norway, along with National Museum of Africa American History in Washington. And according to this expert’s opinion, the garden in between would be an apt metaphor for a safe space, where different communities would come and intermingle.
The Mosque would have itself facing Mecca, the Church’s altar would be pointing towards the Sun, while the Synagogue would face Jerusalem. While the three buildings would have different entrances, visitors would come to a podium where all the three would be visible.
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Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, the first Chief Rabbi of the UAE took this opportunity to talk to Religion News Service and said that if UAE could take this step, shouldn’t the USA too use it as an example to look at where they stand? Shouldn’t the USA have its own national government bring religious tolerance?
The modernization of UAE has led to a massive relaxation of people practicing other religions. While there is still a Sharia law in place, practicing any other religion doesn’t automatically land the other person in jail. It is only when they try to convert a Muslim into another religion that it gets problematic. This is where the Abrahamic Family House and the compound come into play.
The relaxation in religious aspects in the UAE is partly due to the laborers coming to the region for work for constructing hospitals and other buildings. Now, there is a large population of Christians working in the UAE, and the Abrahamic Family House has given them the opportunity to practice their religion where they live.
Credit: ADJAYE ASSOCIATES