New Apostolic Church congregation thanks UAE for freedom to worship
DUBAI // Having served Evangelist congregations in the UAE and other Arabian Gulf countries since 1992, Reverend John Qadir is accustomed to making himself available to others – from informing the community about forthcoming religious events to mediating in family issues.
“There is a lot of responsibility, and the main one is spiritual responsibility,” said the Pakistani father of four.
Rev Qadir is the district Evangelist of the New Apostolic Church, which has 12 million followers around the world, including a community of about 400 in the UAE.
Most members are from Pakistan, although there are some from Germany, South Africa and other countries. Overall, there are about 3,000 Pakistani Christians of different denominations in the UAE, said Rev Qadir.
The community gathers at a compound under the umbrella of the Anglican Church, at the Holy Trinity Church in Bur Dubai. As most members are from Pakistan, services are in Urdu, while there are also English-language services.
A religious minority, Christians in Pakistan have in the past been the target of violence. In November a Christian couple was beaten and burnt to death in a village 60 kilometres from Lahore. In September last year, 127 people died in a suicide bomb attack on a church in Peshawar.
However, Rev Qadir said, the community enjoys security and the freedom to worship in the Gulf. “To be very frank, we thank God for the Gulf region,” he said, adding that the UAE is “something special” when it comes to accommodating religious minorities.
“We thank the President, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid [Vice President and Ruler of Dubai], the Ruler of Sharjah and all of the emirates. They give us freedom to worship in our own language. Wherever the Christian community is, they can go and worship freely,” he said.
This sentiment was also expressed by businessman Jacob Hakam Din, 60.
“I like to live here,” he said. “I have been here 41 years. I go to church and nobody has touched me. I am very happy. When I came here, I was nothing,” said Mr Din, who worked as a welder when he first arrived in the UAE in 1973.
He now runs a transport business and his wife, six sons and their families all live in the UAE. He is active in helping members of the community, as well as disabled people and orphans back in Pakistan.
“I come from a poor family, I like to help poor people,” he said.
Published: December 29, 2014 04:00 AM